Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Jordan Brunner
Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 1:54 PM

The New York Times reports that on Monday night President Donald Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after Yates issued a letter to Justice Department employees instructing them not to defend the administration’s refugee ban, saying she was “not convinced that the executive order is lawful.” Yates, an Obama administration holdover serving as Acting Attorney General while Trump’s Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions awaits confirmation, was dismissed with a strikingly personal letter from the White House declaring that Yates had “betrayed” the Department of Justice.Trump replaced Yates with Dana J. Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who promptly rescinded Yates’ order, calling the refugee ban “lawful on its face and properly drafted” and ordering Justice Department employees to defend it.

Al Jazeera writes that the Iraqi Parliament has voted to call on the government to enact a reciprocal ban on U.S. citizens entering Iraq “in the event that the American side does not withdraw its decision.” The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has called on the Trump administration to review the ban, which they called a “wrong decision.” It is not clear if the proposed Iraqi ban would apply to U.S. military personnel. Government officials and diplomats are exempt from the U.S. ban.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Pentagon is drawing up a list of Iraqi citizens who have risked their lives helping U.S. troops and deserve an exemption from Trump’s refugee ban. The Department of Defense has refused to say how long it will take to compile the list, as it is still working through the criteria to determine who will be included on it. “Even people that are doing seemingly benign things in support of us, whether it’s as a linguist or a driver or anything else, they often do that at great personal risks to themselves,” according to Navy Captain Jeff Davis. Davis said these people “will and should be recognized.”

Democrats have responded fiercely to the executive order. The Post informs us that Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court last night. And Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to block appropriations for the enforcement of Trump’s refugee ban according to the Hill. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is spearheading the effort, and has been joined by six other Democrats. Murphy’s bill complements two other proposals put forward by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which would

Foreign Policy tells us that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, is taking control of the National Security Council now that he has a formal seat on the Principals Committee. Bannon is reportedly forbidding a paper trail at the NSC, instituting more stringent guidelines for handling and routing draft orders such as the refugee ban with the NSC largely cut out, and suppressing dissenting opinions. “He is running a cabal, almost like a shadow NSC,” according to one official.

Politico reports that Trump is amending his memo on the National Security Council to add Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, back to the NSC. The move could create some friction between Pompeo and former Indiana Senator Dan Coats, who has been tapped to be the administration’s Director of National Intelligence. The DNI replaced the CIA Director on the NSC when Congress created the position of DNI in 2005.

The Washington Post examines the “extraordinary” deportation record of Thomas Homan, who has replaced Daniel Ragsdale as acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ragsdale stepped down from his position as acting director last night and will remain in his position as deputy director.

CNN informs us that Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has stated that the suspect in the Quebec mosque shooting, Alexandre Bissonette, was a “lone wolf.” The attack killed six people and wounded five others. According to The Globe and Mail, Bisonette was a well-known right-wing online troll and a vocal supporter of Donald Trump and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen of France. The second alleged attacker of the mosque has now been designated as a witness by Canadian Royal Mounted Police.

Reuters reports that Trump is expected to sign an executive order on cybersecurity later today, which is expected to commission several reviews of offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, seek input on protecting critical infrastructure, and review government efforts to attract and train a technically sophisticated workforce. A draft of the executive order was leaked by the Post. Lawfare has more here.

Two Russian intelligence officers have been charged with treason for “working with the CIA,” The Guardian reports. News of the FSB officers’ arrest leaked last week along with reports of the arrest of Kaspersky Lab leader Ruslan Stoyanov. It remains unclear to what extent the FSB officials are linked to the Russian interference operation in the presidential election.

The Journal informs us that the Czech Foreign Ministry said that its email system was hacked by an external government in a manner similar to the DNC hack last year. The Czech government is one of Europe’s most vocal opponents of Russia, and its interior ministry has accused Russia of leading a disinformation campaign to turn Czech citizens against NATO. The Czech National Security Authority is looking into the scale of the attack.

The Journal also tells us that Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a rare suicide attack on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea, killing two crew members and leaving three others wounded. Three suicide boats struck the frigate as it patrolled the Hodeida port on Yemen’s western coast.

In an update on the first military raid of the Trump administration, NBC News writes that the raid was ordered by Trump, rather than being a holdover from the Obama administration. “Almost everything went wrong,” according to one official. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was forced to leave a social event to deal with the repercussions, released a statement identifying the slain Navy SEAL as Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens. Nawar Anwar al-Awlaki, the eight-year-old granddaughter of Yemen’s former agriculture minister, was among the noncombatants killed in the attack.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic provided the full text of the draft State Department dissent channel memo on President Trump’s refugee and visa executive order.

Paul Rosenzweig pointed out an unintentionally ironic response by the Trump administration on its refugee executive order that is reminiscent of an Obama administration immigration policy.

Daniel Byman argued that Trump’s refugee policy will increase terrorism, which in turn will help Trump.

Charley Snyder and Michael Sulmeyer assessed a purported draft of President Trump’s first executive order on cybersecurity, and examined some of the important provisions of the FY 17 NDAA as they apply to DoD cyber operations.

Caroline Lynch summarized the high-level issues that Congress can address in ECPA reform besides the warrant-only standard.

Quinta flagged former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ letter announcing that the Justice Department would not be enforcing Trump’s refugee ban.

Jack Goldsmith shared his thoughts on why Yates’ reasons for not enforcing Trump’s refugee ban were weak and unpersuasive.

Ben argued that Yates should have resigned rather than refuse to enforce the order.

Susan, Jane Chong, and Chris Mirasola assured those concerned that based on their reading of the relevant statutes, Acting Attorney General Dana Boente can issue FISA applications.

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