Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Tuesday, October 31, 2017, 1:20 PM

The Kremlin denied that the charges filed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation had a connection to Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported. A Russian government spokesperson called the link between Russia and the Trump campaign “ludicrous” and “baseless.” Court filings released on Monday showed that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, lied to the FBI about connections to Russian government officials. President Donald Trump attempted to minimize Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, calling him a “low level volunteer” in a tweet, the New York Times reported. Papadopoulos contacted senior Trump campaign officials numerous times in regard to potential meetings with Russians, according to the Post.

Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that Congress may consider drafting a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), Bloomberg reported. Speaking after a hearing on current legal authorities for the use of force (including the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs), Corker said it would be the “next logical step” for Congress to examine new AUMF legislation. At the hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis said any new authorization should not include sunset provisions or geographic restrictions on military actions.

The Department of Justice will try in federal court a newly captured suspect in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, the AP reported. U.S. Special Forces nabbed Mustafa al-Imam in a raid in Misrata, Libya on Monday. Trump said al-Iman would “face justice” in U.S. courts.

A suicide bomber killed at least three people and wounded 14 others in a blast in the diplomatic district of Kabul, Afghanistan, Al-Jazeera reported. The attack hit buildings close to the Afghan defense ministry and the Australian embassy.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan made data about the size and casualty rates of Afghan security forces secret, hiding previously public sources of information about the war’s progress, the Times reported. Afghanistan’s government requested that the special inspector general for Afghanistan, the U.S. government agency tasked with overseeing spending on the war, hide the numbers in its latest report. According to previously released reports, casualties among Afghan forces have steadily increased this year.

An assailant killed a prominent Russian critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin in a shooting in Ukraine, the Times reported. Amina Okuyeva had gained international recognition for her opposition to Putin and to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. She survived an assassination attempt in June but was killed on Monday when an attacker shot at her car with machine gun fire. The attack is the latest in a series of assassinations of Putin opponents in Ukraine.

The general counsels of Facebook, Google and Twitter will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Facebook will admit that Russian-backed activity on its platform reached far more people than it had previously said, the Wall Street Journal reported. It will concede that Russian-backed ads and posts in total reached approximately 126 million people before and after the 2016 election. Twitter also will admit that it removed 2,752 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm.” Earlier this month, Twitter said it had identified only 201 accounts from the Russian operation. And Google will tell lawmakers that the Russia-linked operatives uploaded thousands of hours of videos on YouTube.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the implementation of the White House’s order restricting transgender people from military service, the Times reported. A D.C. federal district court judge ruled that the administration’s justification for the ban was likely unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. Sarah Grant summarized the order for Lawfare here.

Prosecutors in the military commission trial in the case of the USS Cole bombing asked a military judge to hold three civilian attorneys in contempt of court for failing to appear at trial hearings, the Miami Herald reported. The attorneys refused to obey the judge’s order to continue representing Rahim al-Nashiri after they resigned from the case two weeks ago.

Carlos Puigdemont, the former Catalan president, will accept snap elections called by Spain’s government for Catalonia, Reuters reported. Despite his appearance in Brussels the day after being charged for rebellion and sedition, he denied that he was seeking asylum in Belgium.

Israel destroyed a tunnel under the Gaza border wall, killing seven Palestinian militants, according to Reuters. A military spokesperson said the Israeli Defense Forces had carried out the operation on their side of the border. Hamas accused Israel of attempting to sabotage a recently concluded reconciliation deal between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Airbus lied to the State Department about its compliance with arms export regulations, the Times reported. The aircraft manufacturer admitted that it improperly filed reports to the State Department related to International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Airbus is currently under investigation in Britain and France for using intermediaries to pay bribes involving commercial aircraft sales.

The U.S. committed $60 million to a new U.N. counter-terrorism force in Africa, according to the Times. Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Mali will contribute troops and police officers to a 5,000-strong force to combat the rising extremist groups in the region. The U.S. announced its funding for the arrangement as public attention focused on U.S. military involvement in the region following the deaths of four American soldiers in Niger.

Beijing and Seoul resolved a dispute about the deployment of U.S. anti-ballistic missile defense systems in South Korea, the Journal reported. Both countries’ foreign ministries said they would engage in dialogue about missile defense, putting to an end a spat about the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems that Seoul said it would deploy to defend against the North Korean missile threat.

Reuters’ Greg Torode and Ben Blanchard detailed the indicators of a re-assertive Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.

The Post’s Rachel Weiner wrote about two American teenagers caught between the Islamic State and the FBI.

Buzzfeed News’ highlighted the growing concern among Washington’s lobbyists that the corruption charges Robert Mueller filed against Paul Manafort may apply to them too.

The Times’ Clifford Krauss wrote about Russia’s use of its state oil company, Rosneft, as a foreign policy tool in Venezuela.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Ryan Scoville reviewed Anthea Roberts’ book, “Is International Law International?”

Vanessa Sauter posted Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort, Jr. and Richard Gates III.

Sauter also posted the stipulation of George Papadopoulou’s plea agreement, the statement of offenses and the transcript of the arraignment.

Bonnie Jenkins argued that even should the U.S. leave the Iran deal, the remaining members could continue implementing the agreement.

Matthew Kahn posted Judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling blocking the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service members.

Sarah Grant and Shannon Togawa Mercer summarized the Manafort and Gates indictment.

Sabrina McCubbin summarized the court documents related to George Papandopoulos’ guilty plea.

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes shared their analysis of Monday’s arrests and pleas in the special counsel investigation.

Shannon Togawa Mercer posted the video of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on the AUMF with Tillerson and Mattis.

Kahn posted the government’s reply brief in ACLU v. Mattis, the case involving a captured American citizen being held by the military as an enemy combatant.

Kahn also flagged the newly released D.C. district court ruling that compelled Manafort and Gates’ former attorney to testify against them.

Benjamin Wittes shared a special edition of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring a discussion with Bob Bauer and Paul Rosenzweig about Monday’s special counsel investigation developments.

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