President Donald Trump is expected to continue economic sanctions relief to Iran as part of the Iran nuclear deal, but he will impose new targeted sanctions on Iranian individuals and businesses for their involvement in Iran’s ballistic missile program and human rights abuses, the AP reported. Trump faces a deadline on Friday to extend or cancel sanctions relief for Iran’s central bank, which was lifted as part of the 2015 multilateral agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster have recommended that Trump extend the sanctions. The administration has not yet made a final decision. Maintaining the core sanctions relief while adding new targeted measures could allow the nuclear deal to remain in place while satisfying the administration’s desire to put pressure on Iran.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein released the transcript of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson’s interview with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators about the Steele dossier, the Washington Post reported. Simpson spoke to the committee about Fusion GPS, the firm he co-founded, and its work on the dossier. Republicans have tried to discredit the Trump-Russia dossier as a politically-motivated document. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, had refused to release the transcript. Simpson said in his testimony that the FBI believed some of the allegations Steele shared with its investigators about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia because of other intelligence already in the bureau’s possession, including information related to a person in the Trump campaign.. That person is believed to be George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser who spoke to an Australian diplomat—whose government then relayed to the FBI—information about Russian efforts to undermine the Clinton campaign. The testimony refutes GOP talking points that say the dossier served as the basis for opening the investigation into possible collusion with the Russian government.
Separately, Michael Cohen, an attorney and business partner of Trump, filed defamation lawsuits against Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier, Politico reported. The dossier discusses Cohen’s ties to Russia. BuzzFeed’s editor said in an op-ed in the New York Times that it was the right decision to publish the dossier.
Senate Democrats released a report saying Russia conducted a broad campaign to undermine democratic institutions in Western Europe and North America using military operations, cyber attacks, and disinformation over the past 20 years, the Wall Street Journal reported. The 200-page report from the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal was to “undermine the transatlantic alliance.” It makes 30 policy recommendations, including freezing Russian finances linked to corruption, supporting democratic institutions abroad and levying new sanctions against Russia. Senate Republicans declined to join the report.
Tillerson is opening a State Department investigation into the mysterious attacks on U.S. personnel stationed at the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the New York Times reported. Senators told senior State Department officials that it should have opened the Accountability Review Board inquiry much earlier to look into the strange illnesses that afflicted U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba. The Cuban government has denied any responsibility for the incidents.
A bill to reauthorize surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act advanced to the House floor after the Rules Committee approved it in a 6-3 vote, Politico reported. The bill would renew Section 702, which is currently scheduled to expire on Jan. 19, for six more years. It is a combination of competing bills from the House intelligence and judiciary committees. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the measure is likely to pass both the House and Senate. Sen. Mark Warner, the top democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said the bill would receive support in the Senate.
The Islamic State called on its fighters to attack the militant organization Hamas, saying Hamas had betrayed Palestinians by refusing to release Palestinian extremists and by participating in Palestinian elections, the New York Times reported. A video released from the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State, which is currently fighting Egyptian security forces in the Sinai peninsula, showed Islamic State fighters denouncing Hamas. The feud between the militant organizations makes an already unstable situation near the Sinai-Gaza border even more hostile.
Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two Reuters journalists who have been detained in the country for more than a month with violating a law protecting state secrets, the Times reported. The journalists were investigating mass graves in areas where Myanmar’s military has carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims. They denied any wrongdoing. American and European diplomats in Myanmar called for the journalists’ release.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
Mieke Eoyang, Ben Freeman and Benjamin Wittes shared their analysis of polling data on government and national security matters from December 2017.
Samuel Estreicher discussed separation of powers issues with the Iran nuclear deal agreement.
Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck provided a primer on the merits issues in ACLU v. Mattis.
J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker, covering the Iran protests, austerity for the royal family in Saudi Arabia and possible U.S. cuts to U.N. relief for Palestine.
Matthew Kahn posted the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interview with Glenn Simpson.
Kahn shared Lawfare’s resource page for documents related to FISA Section 702 reauthorization.
Kahn posted the text of a speech FBI Director Christopher Wray gave on Jan. 9 about encryption and cyber security.
Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview between Alina Polyakova and Julia Ioffe about Ioffe’s recent piece on Putin’s goals.
Paul Rosenzweig explained the context for the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for El Salvadorans.
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