Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Monday, May 8, 2017, 2:44 PM

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is testifying before Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism alongside former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as of 2:30pm today. Yates is expected to speak about her conversations with White House Counsel Don McGahn on her concerns over former national security advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Yates was formerly scheduled to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in March before Committee Chairman Devin Nunes abruptly canceled the hearing. The Washington Post has more.

In advance of the hearing, President Donald Trump sent out tweets declaring that “General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration” and requesting that Congress “[a]sk Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information [on Flynn] got into the newspapers” following her conversation with McGahn. But the New York Times reports that President Barack Obama personally warned then-President-elect Donald Trump against hiring Flynn, according to two former Obama administration officials. Obama’s concerns focused on Flynn’s poor management of the Defense Intelligence Agency, from which he was fired as director under the Obama administration.

Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake writes that Trump is pushing back against national security advisor H.R. McMaster, a worrying sign for those who viewed McMaster as a steadying hand on an otherwise unpredictable administration. Trump was reportedly angry over McMaster’s assurances to the South Korean government that the United States would not force Seoul to pay for the THAAD missile defense system, as Trump had previously declared.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is hearing oral arguments at 2:30pm today in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, a case challenging the Trump administration’s revised travel ban executive order. The government is appealing the decision of a federal district court in Maryland issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction against enforcement of the travel ban, the Wall Street Journal writes.

Centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron declared victory in the French election over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen despite the hacking and leaking of emails and documents belonging to his campaign staff. The documents, some of which appear to have been falsified, were released online shortly before French media entered a pre-election blackout during which candidates were barred from campaigning. The Times examines why the hacking and leaking effort, which appears similar to Russian influence operations conducted during the U.S. election, was not successful in pushing the election toward Le Pen. The Guardian reports that analysis by several cybersecurity research firms indicates that APT 28, the entity linked to Russian military intelligence, was likely responsible.

The Pentagon is supporting a new plan to invest almost $8 billion in increasing U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific, the Journal tells us. The plan, which was developed by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), would enhance U.S. engagement in the region during a period of high tensions around North Korea.

The watchdog group known as Protect Democracy has filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information on the Trump administration’s understanding of the legal basis for the recent U.S. airstrikes targeting a Syrian military base. The Times reports on the suit, which is seeking all emails, memos, and other records discussing the President’s legal authority on the matter. The administration has so far been vague in describing the authority under which the strikes were conducted.

The Syrian government is beginning to implement the “de-escalation zones” agreed to by Russia, Turkey, and Syria within the country in order to decrease violence, though the regime indicated that Syrian military police will take the lead in setting up the zones. International observers will not participate, the AP writes. Rebel groups previously rejected the plan. The United States is “look[ing] at the proposal” for de-escalation zones, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, though he voiced concerns over how the safe zones will be implemented. Reuters has more.

U.S. forces killed Sheikh Abdul Hasib, the ISIS leader in Afghanistan, in a raid carried out alongside Afghan Special Forces this Sunday, the Journal reports. Following Hasib’s death, Afghan forces began an offensive into ISIS-held territory in the country’s eastern Nangarhar Province, the Post tells us.

Militant jihadist group Boko Haram has freed 82 young girls who were kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Nigeria in 2014, in exchange for the release of as many as six Boko Haram commanders from the custody of the Nigerian government. Of the 300 girls who were initially kidnapped from Chibok, 21 were released this past October and over 100 remain missing. The Times has more.

In a signing statement attached to Congress’s most recent spending bill, Trump indicated that he would “treat [language restricting the transfer of Guantanamo detainees] consistently with my constitutional authority as commander in chief”—echoing similar language by President Obama meant to indicate the Obama administration’s possible willingness to transfer detainees, the Miami Herald tells us. Trump has previously announced his unwillingness to release prisoners from the detention center.

ICYMI: This Weekend, On Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring a discussion among former NSA and CIA director General Michael Hayden, former acting and deputy director of CIA John McLaughlin, and former deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism Juan Zarate in conversation with the Washington Post’s David Ignatius on the relationship between the White House and the intelligence community.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Alex Thurston argued that the question of which groups in Libya have “ties to al-Qaeda” is so loose as to be meaningless.

Laura Dean considered what the results of the French presidential election mean for Marine Le Pen and the Front National.

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