Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru
Monday, December 18, 2017, 2:57 PM

Cooperation between the White House and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation appeared to fray this weekend after Kory Langhofer, an attorney for President Donald Trump, claimed that Mueller’s team improperly obtained emails between members of the Trump transition team in a letter Langhofer sent to Congress, the New York Times reports. The Trump team believes that the emails may be subject to several privileges, including attorney-client privilege. In an unusual public statement, the special counsel’s spokesman denied the allegations. The accusation has stoked fears that Trump’s team or supporters may continue to delegitimize the Mueller investigation. On Sunday, Sen. John Cornyn said he supports Mueller, but the special counsel should look into anti-Trump bias among members of his team to ensure the investigation’s credibility..

However, despite fears to the contrary, Trump says that he does not intend to fire Robert Mueller, the Washington Post reports. The statement came in response to reporters’ questions as Trump returned to Washington from Camp David. White House officials have repeatedly said there are no discussions to fire the special counsel. However, the president said that he had seen the reports about the allegations surrounding the transition team emails, and he criticized Mueller, noting that it was “not looking good.”

Trump discussed his administration’s national security strategy in a speech on Monday, framing China and Russia as potential competitors on the global stage, the Times reports. The document reorients U.S. strategy toward Trump’s “America First” doctrine while claiming to balance the need to work with U.S. allies.

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Trump to thank him for intelligence that helped foil a terrorist plot that intended to detonate a number of bombs in public spaces in St. Petersburg, the Wall Street Journal tells us. It is the second time in less than a week that the two leaders spoke; on Thursday, Trump called Putin to thank him for the praise he had given Trump and the U.S. economy. The White House released a readout of the Sunday call.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson surprised observers last week when he revealed that the United States has had talks with China about how the nations would navigate securing North Korea’s nuclear weapons in the case of a regime collapse, the Times reports. Until now, the occurrence of any such discussions had been closely guarded to avoid the impression that China has been coordinating with the United States, undercutting its credibility with North Korea.

On Sunday, South Korea scrambled warplanes to respond to five Chinese military aircraft that entered South Korean-claimed airspace above disputed territory and which remained there for three and a half hours, the Journal reports. The Chinese military said that the flight was part of a routine training exercise. However, some analysts said that the move was a signal that significant disagreements between the two nations remain, despite South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s recent trip to China and efforts to smooth over several disputes in the relationship, including over missile defense.

The Obama administration derailed a major U.S. law enforcement operation called Project Cassandra that targeted the billion-dollar drug operation run by the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah, according to a Politico investigation. The drug scheme included the shipment of cocaine to the United States. The report claims that the administration took action to block or impede Cassandra’s progress as it approached high-value subjects to better preserve the possibility of a nuclear deal with Iran.

The United States used its first U.N. Security Council veto in six years to block a resolution that would have indirectly criticized the recent Trump administration decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Journal reports. The resolution would have declared recent attempts to alter Jerusalem’s status to be void. It also would have called on other nations to avoid the establishment of diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. Every other member of the Security Council supported the resolution, including the United Kingdom.

ICYMI: This weekend, on Lawfare

Raphael Cohen discussed the growing civil-military gap and the need for a recalibration of how the public perceives those who serve in the military before they enter political life.

Vanessa Sauter posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Jack Goldsmith’s interview of Noah Felman on his new book about President James Madison.

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