Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 4:08 PM

President Donald Trump is expected to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord as he pledged on the campaign trail, the New York Times reports. According to administration officials, the specific nature of the withdrawal remains “in flux.” Experts worry that the United States’ exit could seriously weaken the agreement’s effectiveness in holding back the potentially devastating consequences of climate change. .

An enormous explosion near Afghanistan’s presidential palace in Kabul killed at least 80 people and wounded over 400 more, the Times writes. The blast, which was caused by a truck bomb, killed and injured Afghan civilians and guards as well as several workers at diplomatic compounds; 11 U.S. contractors were injured, and the German Embassy was severely damaged in the explosion. A spokesman for the Kabul city police indicated that the embassy may not have been the target of the bomb, the AP reports. The Washington Post writes that the Afghan Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, saying that the group that carried it out would “become clear at a later stage.” Afghan officials have claimed that the Taliban-affiliated and Pakistan-based Haqqani Network is responsible, the Times of India tells us.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn lay out their vision of President Trump’s foreign policy, declaring that, “Where our interests align, we are open to working together to solve problems and explore opportunities.”

President Trump has been urging world leaders to call him on his private cell phone, raising concerns over the security of presidential communications, the AP writes. Trump is known to have extended the offer to the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and France. His invitation suggests that the President’s device may and communications be under monitoring by foreign intelligence agencies.

Former FBI Director James Comey will testify in a public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee as early as next week, the Wall Street Journal tells us. The hearing has not yet been scheduled. Comey is expected to discuss his widely-publicized interactions with Trump before his firing, including Trump’s request that the FBI drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. CNN has more.

On Twitter this morning, Trump promoted an offer to testify by his former campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page, who has sought to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Trump suggested that Page’s testimony would counteract testimony by former FBI Director James Comey and former CIA Director John Brennan on the Russia investigation, Reuters tells us. Meanwhile, ABC reports that House investigators have requested information from Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and a former Trump campaign advisor and communications aide Boris Epshteyn. Cohen has also received a request from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Amidst tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the Pentagon successfully tested a missile-defense system designed to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Journal writes. The system, located in California, intercepted a test missile launched from the Marshall Islands. The test follows a joint U.S. and South Korean drill on Monday in which bombers flew near the Military Demarcation Line between North and South Korea, which itself took place following a short-range missile test by Pyongyang.

The Times reports on China’s new cybersecurity law, which enters into force on Thursday. Foreign companies are struggling with the law’s simultaneous breadth and vagueness, leaving many confused as to how to prepare for requirements that companies store their data within China and comply with security checks in certain sectors.

A former Guantanamo detainee has been detained in France as part of an effort to clamp down on an ISIS-linked militant jihadist recruiting network, the AP tells us. In 2001, Sabir Mahfouz Lahmar was detained in Bosnia when authorities believed he may have been involved in a plan to bomb the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo. France agreed to accept Lahmar as a transfer from Guantanamo in 2009.

The Times writes that the defendant in the Portland stabbing case, in which two bystanders were murdered and one wounded when attempting to defend two women from the defendant’s anti-Muslim rant, shouted in court that, “You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism.” Civil rights groups and reporters have noted Jeremy Joseph Christian’s history of extremist statements. Meanwhile, a white California man has been charged with a hate crime after stabbing a black victim with a machete and yelling racial slurs in the second instance of possible far-right extremist violence this week.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Bobby Chesney examined reports that French special forces have passed identities of ISIS fighters to Iraqi special forces for targeting.

Bobby, Jack Goldsmith, Matt Waxman, and Benjamin Wittes discussed the new AUMF introduced by Senators Jeff Flake and Tim Kaine.

The Lawfare staff alerted readers to a June 1 event at the Hoover Institution on “The Future of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

Carrie Cordero explained the national security interests at issue in Jared Kushner’s reported attempt to set up a backchannel to the Kremlin through the Russian Embassy.

Andrew Kent noted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s interesting citation of Ex parte Milligan in the travel ban case.

Josh Blackman continued his analysis of the Fourth Circuit’s decision in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump.

J. Dana Stuster gave us a regional update in the Middle East Ticker.

Paul Rosenzweig flagged the Trump administration’s decision not to extend the ban on in-flight laptop use to flights from Europe to the United States.

Bob Bauer noted that Trump’s legal defense in the Russia investigation will likely clash with his official responsibilities as president.

Daniel Byman considered the Six-Day War’s legacy of international terrorism.

Susan Hennessey argued that though leaks about the Russia Investigation shouldn’t be the focus of our attention over the investigation itself, they shouldn’t be ignored.

Ben posted a special edition of the Lawfare Podcast on Jared Kushner’s backchannel efforts, featuring an interview with Susan and Carrie.

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