Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Helen Klein Murillo
Friday, April 21, 2017, 2:21 PM

The Washington Post reports that Department of Justice officials are considering bringing criminal charges and seeking the arrest of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. CNN sources claim the charges have already been prepared. CIA Director Mike Pompeo recently described Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service,” though President Trump routinely cited information disclosed by the organization during the campaign. Critics have voiced concerns that going after Wikileaks may put journalists in legal danger as well.

An attack yesterday in the heart of Paris left one police officer dead when a gunman opened fire on the Champs-Elysees, reports the Washington Post. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility, identifying the gunman as a Belgian national. French officials confirmed they were opening a terrorism investigation. The New York Times reports that the officer killed was 37-year-old Xavier Jugelé. President Trump quickly tweeted that the attack would have a “big effect” on France’s upcoming election this weekend, the Times explains. The BBC reports that the gunman has been identified by the Paris prosecutor as Karim Cheurfi. Though a note defending ISIS was found near his body, the prosecutor said the gunman had not apparent link to Islamist radicalism.

The attack comes on the eve of French presidential elections, the outcome of which will almost certainly impact Western security policy, notes the Post. Far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen has voiced contempt for NATO and the European Union and has aligned herself behind Russian President Vladimir Putin, while left-wing Socialist Party candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon is also critical of NATO and has indicated support for lifting sanctions on Russia, along with center-right candidate Francois Fillon.

Tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula. Reuters reports that South Korea is on heightened alert ahead of another military celebration by Pyongyang, while Beijing appears likewise on high alert, with increased activity by its military bombers. The U.N. Security Council condemned North Korea’s latest missile test. But the threat to South Korea may be too great for a military strike on North Korea, the Post notes.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis says the Syrian government retains chemical weapons, reports the Post. The first phase of evacuations of four Syrian towns has been completed, despite a delay after an attack on a convoy of evacuees last week, explains Reuters.

Mattis will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who announced his support for a “welcome … strategic change in U.S. leadership and policy,” Haaretz writes. The Secretary of Defense also sat down with his Israeli counterpart earlier in the day. The two reportedly discussed the Iranian nuclear deal and Iran’s influence in the region.

The suspect in last week’s bombing targeting the Borussia Dortmund soccer team was motivated by a desire to profit off of betting on the team’s stock value falling rather than extremism, reports the Post.

The Miami Herald reports on a private meeting between Trump and former Colombian presidents Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana at Trump’s Florida estate. During the meeting, which may have been arranged by Senator Marco Rubio, Uribe and Pastrana expressed their disappointment with the peace deal negotiated between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC rebel group, which was approved by the country’s legislature in November.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary McCord will depart from the Justice Department this month, the AP writes. McCord is currently overseeing the Department’s investigation of connection between Russia and the Trump campaign. Attorney General Jeff Sessions remains the only Senate-confirmed official appointed by Trump in the Department, as Trump’s choices for deputy and associate attorney general have not yet been confirmed and the administration has not yet announced selections for other posts. NPR has more.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted the latest episode of Rational Security, the “Vinson Lose Some” Edition.

Elizabeth McElvein analyzed polling data on public support for the U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

Adel Abdel Ghafar and Anna Jacobs posited that Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s moves to curtail the formal opposition by dismissing the popular head of government may cultivate a more radical opposition.

Carrie Cordero highlighted (and posted video from) a recent Pennsylvania Law School conference on foreign interference with democratic institutions.

Quinta Jurecic posted the annual FISA court report for 2016, which Helen Murillo summarized.

Susan Hennessey, Quinta, and Ben requested participation is the Lawfare Readership Survey.

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