Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Rachel Bercovitz
Thursday, July 13, 2017, 1:10 PM

President Trump will meet today with French President Emmanuel Macron in a hastily arranged meeting just a few days after Trump’s return from the G20 summit in Hamburg, the New York Times writes. Macron, who has been less critical of the Trump administration than other European leaders, has positioned himself as the administration’s principal point of contact in Western Europe. Notwithstanding the breadth of their ideological and political divide, French commentators note that “there may be a convergence in their will to present themselves as pragmatists, as deal makers.” Trump and Macron are expected to discuss military cooperation, specifically regarding the Syrian civil war and the fight against the Islamic State.

TheTimes presents a timeline tracking what members of the Trump campaign knew and when about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. In an interview with Reuters, President Trump affirmed that he was not aware of his son’s meeting with Veselnitskaya until “a couple of days ago,” but stated that, “I think many people would have held that meeting.”

Drone video footage of Mosul confirms accounts by Times journalists and local witnesses of the continuation of hostilities in the fight to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. The footage comes days after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared an end to the campaign, and suggest that at least 100 civilians remain trapped in the city.

Four Gulf Arab states refused to lift sanctions on or resume diplomatic ties with Qatar yesterday following a series of meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson aimed at resolving the month-long dispute. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates have demanded that Qatar accede to a series of stipulations that include cutting off ties with Iran and shuttering the media entity Al Jazeera. Tillerson is expected to return to Doha today, where on Tuesday he concluded a memorandum of understanding with Qatar on terrorism financing. French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will succeed Tillerson in the region on July 15-16, the latest Western official to seek reconciliation between the parties since the onset of the dispute in early June.

As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pursues an agenda designed to undermine the legitimacy and governing capabilities of Hamas, concern in Israel has deepened over the threat of political collapse in the Gaza strip and renewed aggression toward Israel, the Washington Post reports. Abbas has implemented measures designed to intensify public opposition toward Hamas and afford the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s reentry into the strip, limiting the PA’s payment of Gazans’ monthly electricity bills and restricting payment of the salaries of Gazan civil servants. Until now, however, these measures have led to the rise of Abbas opponent and Fatah exile Mohammed Dahlan, and to the prospect of a power sharing agreement between Hamas and Dahlan.

The Post profiles a North Korean defector who formerly worked to send money to Pyongyang despite strict sanctions and is now living in northern Virginia. His former employment with the country’s shadowy “Office 39,” tasked with raising money for the North Korean government, may serve as a useful reservoir of knowledge as the United States and international partners seek to tamp down the crisis on the peninsula.

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while imprisoned for his advocacy of democracy, died while still in government custody on Thursday, the Times writes. Liu remained incarcerated even after being diagnosed with liver cancer. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement calling on the Chinese government to release Liu’s wife from house arrest, where she currently remains.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced the rollout of a program calling for the collection of biometric identity scans of all passengers on outbound international flights in an effort to better track the whereabouts of nonimmigrant foreigners, the Associated Press reports. The proposal would constitute an expansion of a 2004 law that requires foreigners to submit biometric data upon entering the U.S. but has no comparable “exit scan” requirement. Pilot programs are currently being carried out in six U.S. airports, with rollout to high-traffic U.S. international airports expected next year. The proposal has alarmed privacy analysts concerned about the collection and retention of U.S. citizens’ biometric data and the data’s possible misuse.

Two Democratic Party donors and a DNC staffer have filed a lawsuit against the Trump campaign and Trump associate Roger Stone, alleging involvement on behalf of Stone and the campaign in the hacking and leaking of Democratic Party information. The Times writes that the suit, which points to the invasion of the plaintiffs’ privacy caused by publication of the hacked emails, has the potential to grow into an independent investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government if the judge allows the case to reach the discovery stage.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Julian Ku revisited the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea’s arbitral award with respect to China’s activities in the South China Sea. Ku critiqued the Obama administration’s failure to pursue tougher measures to enforce China’s compliance with the award.

Quinta Jurecic flagged Lawfare’s liveblog of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing of Christopher Wray as FBI director.

Beverly Milton-Edwards established the context for recent reports of a power sharing agreement between Hamas and former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, and assessed the implications of such an accord on the region at large.

Benjamin Wittes evaluated Wray’s conduct before the Senate Judiciary Committee and called for Wray’s confirmation.

Daniel Byman considered the domestic security challenges posed by “frustrated foreign fighters” who are prevented from traveling abroad to join the Islamic State.

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