Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Monday, February 26, 2018, 3:11 PM

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in United States v. Microsoft on Tuesday, the Washington Post reports. At issue in the case is whether Microsoft, an American company, must comply with a warrant for electronic communications even if the data are stored on a foreign server, in this instance one in Dublin. The case is before the court as pending legislation, the CLOUD Act, could resolve the dispute at the heart of the case. That bill seeks to strike a compromise between the U.S. government and tech companies that would allow these companies to comply with data requests from “approved foreign governments” while containing adequate civil liberties and privacy protections, although opponents argue it doesn’t do enough to protect Americans.

In the next several days, Democrats will intensify pressure on the Trump administration to impose new sanctions on Russia, the Daily Beast reports. In August, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation mandating that the administration immediately implement new sanctions against Russia. In January, President Trump deferred the new sanctions. This week, House Democrats plan to file a resolution to compel the administration’s compliance with the August law. The resolution highlights Russia’s “continued aggression in Ukraine and forcible and illegal annexation of Crimea and assault on democratic institutions around the world, including through cyberattacks” as underscoring the need for further economic pressure on Moscow. The resolution would coincide with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. According to the Daily Beast, House Democrats plan to question the secretary about the implementation of sanctions and the efforts the administration is taking to prevent further Russian interference in U.S. elections.  

The Chinese Communist Party announced Sunday that it intends to abolish constitutional term limits on the presidency, the New York Times reports. The move will allow the country’s president, Xi Jinping, to rule indefinitely and strengthen the party’s control as it seeks to solidify China’s status as a global power. Many of Xi’s allies suggest that this task requires the president’s continued leadership, which has driven China’s militarization of the South China Sea and the implementation of the “Belt and Road Initiative,” a global infrastructure plan viewed as a drastic expansion of Chinese soft power. By cementing his position as China’s leader, Xi joins a growing contingent of leaders, among them Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pushing their countries toward authoritarianism, the Times notes.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In pressed the Trump administration to lessen preconditions for negotiations with Pyongyang, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a meeting with a special envoy of China’s president, Moon said “the U.S. needed to lower the threshold for dialogue” with North Korea and that the North needed to “show a willingness to denuclearize.” The U.S. has historically maintained that it will not negotiate with Pyongyang unless the regime agrees to discuss denuclearization. President Moon hopes to advance the rapprochement that began in Pyeongchang at the Winter Olympics and obviate the backlash that could occur after annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises scheduled for this spring.

In both classified congressional briefings and public testimony, Trump administration officials say that there is no “bloody nose” strategy for dealing with North Korea, the Post reports. White House aides and administration officials privately expressed their frustration that the phrase seems to have caught on and deny ever using it themselves. Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution told the Post that these denials are disingenuous, pointing out that while the administration might not be considering a “bloody nose” strategy, it still considers preventive strikes a legitimate military option. On Dec. 20, the Daily Telegraph was the first to mention “punch[ing] the North Koreans in the nose,” and the bellicosity of President Trump’s rhetoric toward Pyongyang seems to have contributed to the phrase’s staying power.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres pressed warring parties in Syria on Monday to comply with the ceasefire resolution that the U.N. Security Council passed on Saturday, the Post reports. Guterres focused his remarks on the dire situation in Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-controlled district outside of Damascus, saying that “it is high time to stop this hell on earth.” Over the past week, government airstrikes have claimed more than 500 lives in Ghouta and injured many more. The U.N. hopes to evacuate the wounded from the besieged district and deliver sorely needed humanitarian aid to the city’s remaining residents. Russia announced Monday that it will establish a humanitarian corridor in Ghouta, Reuters reports. The corridor will consist of a five-hour daily truce from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m local time.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic posted House intelligence committee Democrats’ response to the Nunes memo.

Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes shared several key takeaways from the rebuttal, contending that the president was wrong to characterize it as a “total political and legal BUST.”

Wittes shared the Lawfare Podcast, a conversation with Judge Stephen Williams on Vasily Maklakov, a political reformer in pre-revolution Russia.

Kristin Smith Diwan argued that, in light of the current Gulf crisis, Qatar is unlikely to undertake dramatic domestic reforms.

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