Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru
Friday, July 14, 2017, 3:22 PM

Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist with reported Russian intelligence ties also attended the controversial meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016, NBC reports. In April, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting information on Akhmetshin, who he said admitted to being a former Soviet counterintelligence officer. Akhmetshin denies links to the Russian government. Donald Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, told NBC there was a sixth individual in the meeting as well.

Jared Kushner has repeatedly omitted contacts with foreign individuals from his security clearance applications, which his lawyers initially attributed to staff members accidentally submitting the form too early, reports CBS News. But drawing on a tweet from Lawfare Managing Editor Susan Hennessey, Vox writes that the SF-86 document that Kushner submitted requires 28 affirmative steps to complete the form, casting some doubt on the claims of accidental submission. In his initial security clearance application, Kushner included no contact with foreign officials. In his revision, he included over 100 such meetings. He then submitted another revision to include the meeting with Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin in June.

A small tech startup owned in part by Jared Kushner’s brother’s investment firm got a seat at last month’s White House tech summit organized by Kushner, The Wall Street Journal reports. Critics have scrutinized the company’s relatively small size and valuation compared to other attendees, which included Apple and other major Silicon Valley companies. Kushner was on the board of the investor, Thrive Capital, when it bought a stake in OpenGov. Kushner sold his share in Thrive to his brother earlier this year. A staffer in Kushner’s innovation office said that it was the aide’s idea, not Kushner’s, to invite OpenGov.

Judge Derrick K. Watson of the Federal District Court in Hawaii ruled that grandparents and individuals with ties to a refugee resettlement agency are exempt from the Trump administration’s travel ban, The New York Times reports. Hawaii brought the suit to challenge the Trump administration’s definition of “close” family relationship for the purposes of the Supreme Court’s cert decision from last month. Watson said that the administration’s definition contradicted “common sense.” The Times noted that the ruling hands a large victory to opponents of the immigration order and is expected to permit thousands to travel to the U.S. who were previously blocked. However, obtaining a visa may become increasingly difficult for foreign travelers, according to Politico. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said this afternoon that the Department of Justice would appeal directly to the Supreme Court. 

Peter W. Smith, the GOP opposition researcher who gained attention over the past month for telling The Wall Street Journal about his claimed coordination with Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Michael Flynn to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails, killed himself, The Chicago Tribune reports. Although it was known that Smith, 81, had died on May 14, about ten days after Smith’s discussion with the Journal, neither the coroner nor his family disclosed the cause. Smith’s suicide note said there was “no foul play” and cited deteriorating health and a life insurance policy that was due to expire.

On Wednesday night, Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz sent a series of threatening emails laced with profanity to a stranger who had urged him to resign, ProPublica reports. The sender contacted Kasowitz after seeing a segment on Rachel Maddow’s show about Kasowitz’s lack of a security clearance. Kasowitz then responded four separate times within 33 minutes, using vulgar language and telling the man to “watch [his] back.” Kasowitz has since apologized.

Israel and Palestine have struck a water-sharing agreement in a deal shepherded by White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, The Washington Post reports. The plan will provide additional fresh water to the Gaza Strip and West Bank immediately, but is part of a larger, long-term plan to desalinate water from the Red Sea and replenish the Dead Sea. The deal is part of the White House’s broader attempt to reopen peace talks.

The Chinese Communist Party newspaper the Global Times has said that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was a pawn of Western public opinion, the AP reports. Liu was an essayist and literary critic who spoke out against the Chinese government. He died of liver cancer while serving an 11 year prison sentence in China for “incitement to subversion.” The White House released a statement offering condolences for Liu’s wife and for his family and friends, but did not comment on China’s treatment of him. The Trump administration had previously called on China to allow Liu to seek treatment for his cancer elsewhere, but China refused and said it was providing the best care possible. China rejected Western criticism of its actions.

Australia’s parliament plans to introduce a law in November that would require global technology companies to decrypt messages sent via end-to-end encryption by suspected terrorists and extremists, the Post reports. The law would be based on the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Act. Proponents say that the authority is necessary to adequately address crime and terrorism challenges, but critics have raised privacy and cybersecurity concerns.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted the Rational Security podcast. 

Quinta Jurecic posted the complaint in a violation of privacy suit against the Trump campaign and

Roger Stone who the suit accuses of coordinating with the Russian government in the hacking and leaking of DNC emails last year.

Helen Klein Murillo and Susan Hennessey examined potential criminal liability under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Wittes discussed his poll showing that only 17% of Americans believe Trump is being truthful about his interactions with James Comey.

Darren E. Tromblay argued that Congress is uniquely vulnerable to foreign government influence campaigns.

Robert Loeb and Michael Linhorst discussed a lawsuit alleging that several Twitter users’ first Amendment rights were violated when they were blocked by @realDonaldTrump for expressing their political views.

Jurecic posted the Hawaii Federal District Court’s decision to grant in part the plaintiffs’ motion to enforce or modify the preliminary injunction in the travel ban litigation.

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