Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru, Matthew Kahn
Thursday, June 8, 2017, 4:37 PM

Former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in his first public appearance since his firing on May 9. Comey confirmed the substance of much of the previous reporting on his concerns over his interactions with Trump, informing the committee that he perceived President Trump’s private statement to him that he “hoped” Comey could “let go” the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn as a request to the FBI to back off the probe. The New York Times reports that Comey testified that White House officials lied in their public statements that the FBI was in disarray under Comey’s leadership and that he believed President Trump’s comment to Russian diplomats—saying he was fired to relieve pressure from the investigation into potential Russian collusion—likely expressed the true reason behind Comey’s dismissal. Comey also stated that he has provided his memos chronicling his interactions with Trump to Robert Mueller, the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation. He informed the committee that he asked a friend to release the contents of an unclassified memo documenting Trump’s request to drop the investigation into Flynn to the Times, in order to apply pressure for the appointment of a special counsel. The president’s private lawyer has released a statement in response to the testimony criticizing Comey.

The Financial Times provides a look at today’s general election in the U.K., including the issues surrounding the vote and the possible results. Prime Minister Theresa May, the Conservative leader, called snap elections in April in an effort to shore up party support as Brexit negotiations loom. Although the Labour party has made recent gains in some polls, polling averages showed Conservatives with an advantage just prior to the vote.

Politico reports that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC4) has been tapped by the Republic Steering Committee to chair the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The position would place Gowdy in charge of a probe into Trump’s decision to fire Comey. The move must be confirmed by the full Republican Conference before taking effect.

The diplomatic crisis among the Gulf Cooperation Council’s member states following their break with Qatar continues to rapidly develop. Al Jazeera has live updates, and reports that the Qatari foreign minister has said the crisis threatens the stability of the region and that Qatar will never be ready to surrender its control over its foreign policy. Foreign Policy is reporting that Al Jazeera claims to have been the victim of a massive hacking attempt following accusations of the recent hacking of Qatari state media. The Wall Street Journal overviews what led to the crisis and discusses how regional rivalries and proxies are impacting its development. 

Anna Fifield at the Post asks why North Korea has launched so many recent missile tests. Experts say it may be an attempt to improve their bargaining position for any future negotiations. Just Thursday, the North Korean military launched its fourth missile test this month and has launched 16 missiles in 2017, according to CNN.

The Post writes that a large group of al-Shabab attackers launched an unusually brutal assault that included beheadings on an army base in Somalia, with reports of those dead ranging from 20 to 80 individuals. The Islamist group, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, is the deadliest militant group in Africa, surpassing Boko Haram.

The Hill reports that several members of the House have introduced a bill to require congressional notification within 48 hours following sensitive military cyber operations. It would also require congressional disclosure in the event of unauthorized revelations of cyber capabilities. Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX13), Adam Smith (D-WA9), Elise Stefanik (R-NY21), and Jim Langevin (D-RI2) introduced the legislation.

The Hill also reports that some Senate Democrats are considering linking sanctions against Iran with establishing a path forward on sanctions against Russia. The sanctions against Iran receive bipartisan support, but some Republicans have been hesitant to support sanctions against Russia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects votes on sanctions to occur.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes answered some of the most frequently asked questions about what would happen in today’s Comey testimony.

Matthew Kahn posted Comey’s prepared statement for today’s testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Susan, Quinta Jurecic, and Matt analyzed the key takeaways from the written statement.

Ben gave his preliminary comments on the document and Jack Goldsmith also provided two reflections, partially, but not completely, agreeing with Ben.

Bob Bauer analyzed what information the statement provides about the obstruction of justice question regarding the investigation into Michael Flynn.

Jane Chong and Quinta liveblogged the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and Quinta compiled transcript highlights from key sections of the hearing that touched on the Russia investigation.

Shannon Togawa Mercer provided a primer on today’s U.K. general election which could have major implications on counterterrorism, Brexit, and the future of the U.K.

Jack posted that Trump has nominated Christopher Wray to lead the FBI following Comey’s departure.

John Bellinger noted that friend of Lawfare Cully Stimson has been nominated by Trump to serve as General Counsel of the Navy.

Anders Henriksen and Jens Ringsmose reported on recent, highly unusual criticism of the U.S. government from the Danish prime minister.

Nicholas Weaver provides reflections on the recent NSA leak arrest of Reality Leigh Winner.

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