Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Vanessa Sauter
Thursday, October 19, 2017, 3:41 PM

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in a five-hour oversight hearing, the Washington Post reports. It was the first time Sessions appeared before the committee since his January confirmation hearing. The attorney general refused to disclose any details of his private conversations with President Trump concerning former FBI Director James Comey’s dismissal. Senators also questioned Sessions on his attitude towards prosecuting journalists, to which the attorney general responded that he couldn’t “make a blanket commitment to that effect.” Sessions, who recused himself from the Russian investigation, also stated that Special Counsel Robert Mueller “will produce the [investigation] in a way he thinks is correct, and history will judge.”

Members of President Donald Trump’s campaign promoted tweets from Kremlin-backed professional trolls, the Daily Beast reports. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., and Kellyanne Conway were among the Trump campaign members who followed or retweeted @Ten_GOP, the self-described “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans.” Russian media outlet RBC first reported that the Internet Research Agency, regarded as a Russian-funded troll farm, ran the account. Twitter terminated the account, which had accumulated more than 100,000 followers since its inception in late 2015, in August for undisclosed reasons.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s lawyers filed a motion on Tuesday asserting that Trump’s comments cast an “impermissible shadow” over Bergdahl’s sentencing trial, according to the Hill. On Monday, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for abandoning his post in Afghanistan back in 2009. Trump had previously expressed unfavorable opinions of Bergdahl, commenting at a 2015 campaign rally that the sergeant is a “no-good traitor, who should have been executed” and that “thirty years ago, he would have been shot.” Bergdahl’s sentencing proceedings will begin this Monday. He faces the possibility of life in prison.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan met with South Korean and Japanese senior officials in Seoul on Wednesday to discuss the threat from North Korea, ABC News reports. The officials maintained their commitment to diplomatic negotiations in de-escalating tension with Pyongyang. Sullivan, however, reiterated the Trump administration’s decision to keep all options open, citing the regime’s erraticism and the need to prepare for any possible action. The meeting came after a joint U.S.-South Korean naval drill to prepare for a potential North Korean attack.

Guantanamo prison guards seized the court-approved laptops and hard drives of the accused 9/11 attack plotters on Wednesday, according to the Miami Herald. The inmates were using the laptops in preparation for their death penalty trials. The 9/11 defense lawyers were also denied access to their normal weekly meeting site on Monday, though a judge later reversed the decision. Both events follow the collapse of al-Nashiri’s defense team, announced in a press release last Friday, after allegations of breached attorney-client privilege.

The United Nations is seeking access to Raqqa now that the Islamic State group has been driven out, the BBC reports. As Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claim they have full control of the city, U.N. officials are prioritizing access to the area in their effort to assist the nearly 300,000 displaced people living in nearby camps. A U.N. official stated that he does not believe there are Syrian civilians currently in Raqqa. The SDF’s control of the city is expected to be a significant turning point for humanitarian aid in the country.

ICYMI, Yesterday on Lawfare

Garrett Hinck posted the European Commission’s first annual report on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

Thomas Kellogg examined the Chinese government’s efforts to undermine U.N. human rights mechanisms.

Anthony Bellia and Bradford Clark argued that Justice Gorsuch was right concerning the original meaning of the Alien Tort Statute.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted the National Security Law Podcast.

Dana Stuster posted the Middle East ticker, addressing Kurdish national aspirations in Iraq, Trump’s decertification announcement, and the Islamic State group’s defeat in Raqqa.

Vanessa Sauter posted the live streaming of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Evelyn Douek discussed the U.K.’s new Green Paper and how it will impact private sector internet operations.

Michael J. Glennon reviewed Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro’s new book The Internationalists.

Emma Kohse summarized Judge K. Watson’s temporary restraining order against Trump’s travel ban.

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