Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Jordan Brunner
Monday, February 6, 2017, 2:19 PM

The legal battles continue over President Trump’s executive order banning the entry of immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. On Friday, Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a nationwide temporary restraining order late Friday afternoon against the implementation of the executive order. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the Justice Department’s motion to stay the restraining order. President Trump tweeted aggressively at the courts throughout the weekend, calling the order “a terrible decision” and decrying Judge Robart as a “so-called judge.” The Washington Post has more on Judge Robart here, while the New York Times reviews the legal landscape.

A group of senior national security officials have filed a declaration writing that the executive order does not increase the nation’s security and will actually harm it. Meanwhile, the Post reports that Apple, Facebook, and Google are among nearly 100 tech companies that have filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the administration’s refugee ban. The brief argues that immigration and economic growth are “intimately tied” and that the order could damage the United States’s ability to attract the world’s talent.

In a lengthy study of the new president’s first weeks in office, the Times also reports that Trump was apparently “not fully briefed” on the National Security Presidential Memorandum that put Steve Bannon on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council before signing it. It is not clear which details the President was unaware of.

The New York Times writes that Trump appears to have backed off on considering the reopening of CIA “black site” prisons in the face of major pushback from a leaked executive order. Last week, the White House circulated a new draft of the executive order, which also removes a provision reestablishing the 2007 Bush executive order that laid out what torture techniques count as war crimes under the Geneva Conventions and leaves in place two executive orders issued by the Obama administration in 2009 relating to detainees. However, Obama’s order on the closing of Guantanamo is implicitly revoked due to a provision in the new draft which revokes all contrary provisions of previous orders.

The Military Times writes that Vincent Viola, Trump’s nominee to be the Secretary of the Army, has withdrawn from consideration for the post. Viola withdrew due to a financial conflict of interest that proved too difficult to untangle.

The Hill tells us that after speaking with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump agreed to attend a meeting of NATO leaders this May. The two discussed “how to encourage all NATO allies to meet their defense spending commitments,” and the conflict in Ukraine. Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO as “obsolete,” and has accused members of the alliance of not paying their fair share.

The Wall Street Journal notes that in the White House’s readout of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the White House describes the fight in Ukraine as raging “along the border,” when it fact it is taking place along a 250-mile front inside the country’s borders. The statement adds to the uncertainty and mixed signals from the administration regarding the president’s approach to Russia. Notably, when asked to defend his respect for Russian President Vladimir Putin against accusations that Putin is a “killer,” Trump stated on Sunday that, “There are a lot of killers … you think our country is so innocent?”

The Military Times informs us that Iran performed a missile and radar test on Saturday in defiance of the U.S. sanctions that were levied last week by the Trump administration. During the test, Iranian General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps airspace division, said that the Iran’s missiles would come down on the country’s enemies if they do wrong. The Iranian regime has dismissed rhetoric from the White House: “The Iranian nation and authorities do not attach the least value to these remarks,” said Senior Vice President Ishaq Jahangiri.

Al Jazeera writes that Secretary of Defense James Mattis called Iran the “biggest state sponsor of terrorism” in the immediate aftermath of sanctions being levied. Reuters reports that Russia has disagreed with the assessment, responding that Russia has “friendly partner-like relations with Iran” and criticizing the Trump administration for reimposing sanctions.

Beijing has lodged a formal protest with the United States over the Iranian sanctions, according to the Post, on the grounds that the sanctions also target two Chinese companies and three Chinese individuals. The affected Chinese individuals and entities have allegedly supplied components needed to build and test the missiles. The state news agency said the sanctions cast a shadow over the prospects for a peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue, and called them a “ticking time bomb” for peace and stability in the entire Middle East.

The Times examines how China’s artificial intelligence weaponry is getting smarter as the global technology balance of power shifts in its favor. Meanwhile, the Asia Times tells us that comments by Defense Secretary James Mattis have smoothed over some of the tension over the South China Sea during his remarks in Tokyo and Seoul. Mattis called for diplomatic rather than military measures to be used to solve the issue.

Foreign Policy informs us that Yemen has become the first battleground for the Trump administration against Iran. The administration has begun stepping up attacks against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, diverting the USS Cole to protect shipping, and weighing options to step up drone strikes and insert military advisors to train local forces.

The Post notes that the military is scrambling to explain why it released 10-year-old jihadi footage to show that the raid in Yemen that killed a Navy SEAL and numerous civilians was a success. Military officials originally said that the video was obtained from the raid, but it was taken down after reaction on social media demonstrated it was from 2007.

Reuters writes that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces started a new phase of its campaign against ISIS in Raqqa, aiming to complete its encirclement and sever the road to militant strongholds in Deir al-Zor province with increasing U.S. support. Jordan, which is also part of the coalition, conducted strikes in southern Syria Friday night.

Reuters informs us that the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees Filippo Grandi has said that “safe zones” would not work in Syria, despite Trump’s promise to “absolutely do safe zones in Syria.” The High Commissioner was quoted as saying: “With the fragmentation, the number of actors, the presence of terrorist groups, it’s not the right place to think of that solution.” Grandi instead urged those involved to focus on making peace, so that “everything becomes safe.”

AP reports that the number of suspected ISIS militants detained in Turkey as part of a large raid early Sunday has risen to 750. Anti-terrorism police launched simultaneous raids in 29 provinces, including Ankara and Istanbul. The Turkish government has not provided details or given a breakdown of the foreigners captured in the operation.

The Post writes that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has accused Egyptian intelligence services of supporting Sudan’s opposition forces and has threatened to take a border dispute between the two neighbors to U.N. Security Council if negotiations fail. Al-Bashir, who is the only head of state facing charges of genocide from the ICC, also accused Iran of trying to spread Shiite Islam to Sudan, a close ally of Saudi Arabia.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Jack Goldsmith and Marty Lederman’s debate over the actions of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

Samuel Bray presented the case against national injunctions by federal courts.

Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey assured those concerned that Rick Ledgett’s retirement from the NSA was not a political protest.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Carol Saivetz examined what Russian President Vladimir Putin might want from a bargain with President Trump.

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