The Trump administration levied sanctions against several close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports. Those sanctioned include Russian oligarchs and political elites, as well as powerful companies like United Co. Rusal PLC, one of the largest producers of aluminum in the world. The sanctions were justified as retaliation for Moscow’s subversion of democratic processes in the United States and elsewhere, along with its intervention in Syria. They are based on the 2017 law passed by Congress levying sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The sanctions have rattled Russian elites, with many moving their assets out of the reach of Western authorities in recent weeks. Some of the Russian oligarchs targeted include Putin’s son-in-law and Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Politico adds.
China has threatened to respond “forcefully” with “detailed” countermeasures on Friday morning in the wake of President Donald Trump’s threat to impose an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, the Washington Post informs us. Trump tweeted that “in light of China’s unfair retaliation,” he was instructing the U.S. trade representative to consider the additional tariffs. The back-and-forth between the United States and China provoked a downward spiral in stock prices, and brings the countries closer to a trade war.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller moved to seize assets in three bank accounts the day before Paul Manafort was indicted, Politico tells us. The seizure, revealed in court filings on Thursday, was part of a list of things to be seized in warrants submitted to the D.C. federal district court last year, which also includes a request for information about “five telephone numbers controlled by AT&T” from March 9. The new filing also confirms that investigators searched a storage locker of Manafort’s.
Andrew E. Kramer profiles Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a former Russian intelligence officer who is suspected of being the “Person A” in court filings by Special Counsel Mueller but who claims he is innocent, for the New York Times.
WikiLeaks was attempting to obtain files from Guccifer 2.0, the hacker linked to Russian intelligence who was responsible for hacking into the DNC, during the summer of 2016, Buzzfeed writes. According to leaked Twitter direct messages, Wikileaks asked freelance national security reporter Emma Best to back off from a separate effort to procure the emails from Guccifer 2.0. The messages stand in stark contrast to the claims by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange that the group received the emails from deceased Democratic staffer Seth Rich. Messages between Guccifer 2.0 and Best seem to confirm that the former gave Wikileaks the hacked emails.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, accused Western nations on Thursday of slandering the Russian government through their accusations that it was involved in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the Post writes. Nebenzia called the claims an attempt to “discredit and delegitimize” Russian involvement in countries like Syria during a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council called by Russia. The poisoning has caused an increasing deterioration in relations between Russia and the West over the past few weeks, with each side expelling over 100 diplomats from their respective countries.
The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that the deployment of U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration was warranted by the surge in illegal crossings last month, the Post reports. Arrests by federal agents, which a DHS spokesperson said was evidence of a “crisis” at the border, increased by 37 percent in March to a total of 50,308. The jump is the largest in the past five years, but the release of the numbers, which came a few days earlier than normal, seemed timed to coincide with the National Guard deployment of 4,000 troops to the border.
Bryan Bender and Jacqueline Klimas of Politico examine the coming war in outer space, and the Pentagon’s stated lack of preparedness for it.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
Scott Harman summarized relevant background, precedent, and court documents in Doe v. Mattis ahead of oral argument in the case.
Suzanne Maloney explained why Trump’s new national security team likely spells disaster for the Iran nuclear deal.
Carrie Cordero highlighted the still-pressing question of what WikiLeaks’ role was in the 2016 presidential election within the context of intelligence community transparency.
Evelyn Douek examined Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s proposal for an independent tribunal to adjudicate the bounds of acceptable speech on Facebook and the reasons behind it.
Charles Dugan and Megan Reiss recommended questions that Congress should ask Zuckerberg when he testifies on April 11.
Benjamin Wittes posted this week’s episode of Rational Security: the “Return of Susan” edition.
Bob Bauer explained what a recent Washington Post story about the Special Counsel reveals about OLC opinions on the indictment of a sitting president and Mueller’s reading of his authority.
Quinta Jurecic summarized the oral argument in Doe v. Mattis.
Paul Rosenzweig delivered some good news about cybersecurity.
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