Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru
Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 4:40 PM

Former FBI Director James Comey will testify that President Trump pressured him to publicly disclose that the FBI was not investigating Trump personally, The New York Times reports based on Comey’s prepared testimony for tomorrow’s hearing, which was released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The testimony describes five of the nine one-on-one interactions between Trump and Comey before the president fired Comey on May 9. Lawfare will live-blog the testimony, which is scheduled for tomorrow at 10 a.m.

President Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to intervene with Comey to relent in the bureau’s investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, reports the Washington Post. Coats decided that such an intervention would be inappropriate after discussions with other officials. During testimony at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today, Coats did not comment on the story. That hearing, in which Coats was joined by NSA Director Michael Rogers, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was intended to cover Section 702 reauthorization. White House Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert wrote an editorial in the Times today endorsing a bill proposed by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton which would reauthorize Section 702 indefinitely; the bill is currently on a five year sunset cycle, and the current cycle ends in December.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign as tensions rose over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, reports ABC. President Trump did not accept his reservation, but White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to say that Session’s still has the president’s support. The Times also reported last night that Comey asked Sessions not to allow further direct contact between the then-FBI Director and Trump after the president asked Comey to end the investigation into Flynn. This account comports with Comey’s prepared testimony that the Committee released today.

Politico reports that Trump will nominate Christopher Wray to lead the FBI following the dismissal of James Comey last month. Wray is a partner at King & Spalding and formerly served at the Department of Justice from 2003 to 2005 as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. He was also Chris Christie’s personal attorney during the Bridgegate scandal. Wired has a take on what Wray has learned from his past experiences.

The Guardian writes that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper criticized the Trump administration during a speech at Australia’s National Press Club and stated that the severity of the Russia scandal is greater than that of Watergate: “I think you compare the two, that Watergate pales, really, in my view, compared to what we’re confronting now.”

At least 12 are dead and 42 injured in Tehran following simultaneous attacks on both the Iranian parliament and the shrine of former supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini in what are potentially the first major ISIS attacks in Iran, the Post reports. The Times reports that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. The attackers used both firearms as well as suicide vests to inflict the damage. The assault comes in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, and experts say it could have been designed with maximum shock value and/or symbolic meaning in mind. This comes just after increasing rifts in the Gulf region as states cut ties with Qatar, as well as heightened military pressure on ISIS with a new offensive against the de facto capital in Raqqa.

The diplomatic crisis in the Gulf surrounding Qatar may have been partially driven by Russian hackers, according to CNN. The report says that FBI investigators recently sent to Doha believe the hackers planted a false news story attributing pro-Iran quotes to the Emir of Qatar. The alleged statements increased tensions with regional rival Saudi Arabia and contributed to the severing of relations. Marc Jones, providing analysis for the Post, has more on the use of Twitter bots and the future of Gulf cyberwarfare.

Joe Davidson at the Post provides his perspective on the exit of Carolyn Lerner from the Office of Special Counsel, the office established to protect whistleblowers from reprisal. Henry Kerner has been nominated by Trump to take her place after her departure on June 14.

The Post reports that Trump has nominated David P. Pekoske to head the Transportation Security Administration. Pekoske is a former Coast Guard vice commandant and has also held positions in the private sector.

The Times reports that South Korea has suspended the deployment of four additional missile defense  launchers of the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, pending a required environmental and social impact evaluation that will take one year. Supporters of new, left-leaning president Moon Jae-in say he is simply staying within the requirements of law. Opponents on the right believe the move could put South Korean and U.S. troop and civilian security at risk. The Chinese government sees the THAAD system as a potential threat and has placed political and economic pressure on Seoul to prevent the deployment—pressure which may have led to Moon’s decision.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

J. Dana Stuster reported on tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the new Raqqa offensive, and developments in the current German-Turkish feud.

Michael Leiter analyzed Theresa May’s recent speech on possible changes to British counterterrorism policy and what it could mean for both the U.K. and the U.S.

Stewart Baker posted the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast: Globalizing Censorship.

Alex Loomis considered whether the Supreme Court would extend previous precedents to IRAP v. Trump that could risk Trump admitting his true intentions of the travel ban in post-ruling tweets.

Quinta reported that Sen. Tom Cotton introduced a bill yesterday that would make FISA Section 702 permanent.

Jordan Brunner and Emma Kohse provided a detailed overview of Carpenter v. United States and the implications of the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari.

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