Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Thursday, April 5, 2018, 3:54 PM

Administration officials said that President Trump intends to impose further sanctions on Russia by Friday, the Washington Post reports. The sanctions will apparently target at least a half-dozen Russian oligarchs with links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The individuals targeted by the new round of sanctions reportedly come from the list of powerful Russian political and business leaders released by the Treasury Department in January. The decision to impose additional sanctions comes after weeks of the president’s aides urging Trump to increase American pressure on Moscow in response to the Kremlin’s attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil, Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and devastating Russian cyberattacks.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House intelligence committee, sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI director Christopher Wray demanding an unredacted copy of the document used to open an investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the Washington Examiner reports. The document, referred to as an “Electronic Communication,” has sparked considerable controversy, with some Republicans claiming that the FBI used unverified, overtly partisan sections of the Steele Dossier to attain the warrant needed to begin the investigation into Trump campaign collusion. The New York Times report in January said that the FBI counterintelligence investigation was prompted by a tip from the Australian government about George Papadopoulos. In his letter, Nunes demanded that Rosenstein and Wray send the document to the House intelligence committee by April 11.

The special counsel’s team is pressing a federal judge to reject a request made from former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s attorneys for the judge to turn down the money laundering charge against their client, Politico reports. Manafort’s attorneys argue that Judge Amy Berman Jackson should turn down the charge because the practice that generated the funds Manafort allegedly laundered—lobbying on behalf of a foreign government—is legal. While Manafort’s lawyers do not contest that their client failed to register as a foreign agent, they challenge the prosecution’s assertion that their client’s failure to register constitutes sufficient ground on which to convict Manafort for money laundering. In a filing submitted Wednesday, the special counsel’s team countered that Congress designated felony violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act as violations that can lead to charges of money laundering in 2001. The prosecutors added that even if Manafort would have received some of the money he received regardless of whether he registered properly as a foreign agent, Manafort might have been paid more to operate illegally.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday that the tech giant will enforce the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation universally across the social media platform, Politico reports. In doing so, Zuckerberg gives all Facebook users access to stringent data protection rules, which include the users’ right to revoke the platform’s permission to use their data if they believe Facebook is misusing the data. The new privacy standards will come into effect on May 25.

Sixty U.S. diplomats left Russia on Thursday after the Kremlin ordered their departure last week, the Wall Street Journal reports. Moscow’s order was a reaction to the expulsion of 130 Russian diplomats from Western countries in response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Russia continues to deny responsibility for the poisoning, even requesting at a meeting of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons on Wednesday that Moscow join the investigation into the attempted assassination. The OCPW’s member-states denied the request on the grounds that considerable evidence points to Moscow’s culpability. The U.N. Security Council will discuss the poisoning and denounce the use of chemical weapons in a meeting Thursday called by Vasily Nebenzya, the Kremlin’s ambassador to the United Nations. The Russian ambassador to the U.K. said Thursday that Moscow will only accept the results of tests performed by chemical weapons inspectors on the nerve agent used in the poisoning of the Skirpals if the process is transparent, Reuters adds.

In an exhaustive report that draws on thousands of internal documents, the New York Times outlines the complex system of government used by the Islamic State to rule its caliphate. Documents reveal that ISIS seemed to learn from the mistakes of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Instead of disbanding the previous administrative state and purging the members of the former ruling party, ISIS used the administrative structure left behind by the government as the foundation upon which it built its so-called “caliphate.” Documents and interviews with dozens of individuals who lived under the organization’s rule suggest that the group often offered better services than the government it replaced. In the words of Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, “The Islamic State’s capacity to govern is really as dangerous as their combatants.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Daniel Weitzner outlined how Congress and the European Union could have prevented the Cambridge Analytica data breach and other abuses of user privacy through the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

Yuval Shany argued that the delays outlined in a report issued by Israel’s State Comptroller on the Israel Defense Forces’ conduct in Operation Protective Edge could undermine the legitimacy of the IDF’s investigative procedures.

Wenqing Zhao and David Stanton shared this week’s SinoTech, which examined, U.S. tariffs on China, China’s response, the role of the World Trade Organization in the unfolding dispute, and, among other things, the Federal Communications Commission’s campaign against Huawei.

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