Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic, Matthew Kahn
Thursday, June 1, 2017, 3:41 PM

President Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change, holding true to his campaign promise, the New York Times reports. The landmark agreement, reached in 2015, commits almost every nation worldwide to combatting climate change. The United States’ withdrawal will take up to four years to complete under the terms of the accord. In the leadup to his decision, Trump faced sharp criticism from European leaders who had committed to the agreement, as well as U.S. executives.

Former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday, June 8 at 10 a.m. about potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Senators will likely ask about media accounts of interactions initiated by President Trump in which Trump pushed Comey for information and particular actions regarding the Russia investigation, including pressuring Comey to end the FBI investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has issued four subpoenas to Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, and three other subpoenas requesting documents related to “unmasking” of names unrelated to the Russia investigation, reports CNN. The former orders were issued by Vice Chairman Mike Conaway, the committee chairman for purposes of investigations into potential Russian meddling following the recusal of HPSCI Chair Devin Nunes, and Ranking Member Adam Schiff. The latter orders regarding unmasking were issued by Nunes without consulting the minority. Schiff said in an interview today that Nunes’ decision violates the terms of his recusal, though a senior Republican aide tells CNN that Nunes had never formally recused himself and thus could not have violated his obligations.

CNN reports that congressional investigators are inquiring whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a third undisclosed meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said to have occurred on April 27, 2016. The FBI is also conducting an inquiry into the same potential meeting, which was believed to have occurred at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. after then-candidate Trump’s first major foreign policy address. NBC reports today that five current and former officials are aware of classified intelligence suggesting that the meeting may have included Trump and Jared Kushner. Neither Congressional nor Bureau investigators have concluded whether any additional meeting occurred These investigations come after Sessions’ failed to disclose two meetings with Kislyak during his confirmation hearings earlier this year. CNN also reports today that Senators Patrick Leahy and Al Franken asked then-FBI Director James Comey, and later, Acting Director Andrew McCabe, to investigate whether Sessions’ failure to disclose those meetings while under oath constitutes perjury.

The White House took steps to return two compounds in the U.S. that were seized from the Russian government in response to Russian election meddling, reports the Washington Post. The Obama administration confiscated the properties, which it said were being used for “intelligence-related purposes,” in December 2016. Under the Trump administration, the State Department conditioned the return of the properties on the Kremlin lifting its freeze on building a U.S. consulate on a certain property in St. Petersburg, but shortly thereafter indicated openness to returning the compounds independent of the consulate’s status.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that “patriotically-minded” Russian hackers may have been responsible for cyberattacks associated with the 2016 election, but the Russian government was not involved, according to Reuters. Putin’s comment was given in response to a question about whether Russia would try to influence the German elections later this year. In January, the intelligence community issued a report stating that Putin ordered an influence campaign “to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

President Trump has announced that he will not move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem at this time. The move comes in contrast to campaign promises to the contrary and the appointment of David Friedman, who has supported such a measure in the past, as ambassador. President Trump did not discuss moving the embassy during his visit to Israel last week, according to the Times.

The death toll from the bombing in Kabul on Wednesday has risen to 90 people, with over 400 wounded the Wall Street Journal reports. Afghan intelligence officials have blamed the Haqqani Network, a Taliban-linked organization based in Pakistan, for the attack. With the Trump administration due to address a Pentagon recommendation to deploy additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the bombing may complicate the White House’s decision.

The founder of ISIS’s propaganda news agency Aamaq was killed in an airstrike likely conducted by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria last week, the AP writes. Baraa Kadek’s death was reported by both individuals close to Kadek and Syrian opposition activists, though ISIS has not commented. A separate airstrike may also have killed Turki al-Binali, a leading ISIS cleric.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Ingrid Wuerth argued that the U.N. Security Council should pull back from its engagement on human rights issues.

Stewart Baker posted the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast, featuring an interview with Fireeye CEO Kevin Mandia.

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted the latest edition of the National Security Law Podcast.

Suzanne Maloney asked what Hassan Rouhani’s victory in the Iranian presidential election will mean for Iranian relations with the United States.

Lawfare announced a new Hoover Book Soiree on June 15, with Dan Drezner on his new book The Ideas Industry.

Russell Spivak and Ashley Deeks examined the state of affairs on drone regulations after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Taylor v. Huerta.

Mike Flowers alerted Lawfare readers to a new visualization available on the site: the Presidential Sanctions Tracker developed by Enigma.

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