Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 4:32 PM

In a tweet early Wednesday morning, President Trump announced that missiles “will be coming” to Syria in response to the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack on Douma, the Washington Post reports. The tweet called out Russia by name, taunting Moscow for saying it will shoot down incoming missiles and denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for supporting Assad, who Trump described as “a Gas Killing Animal.” The president’s condemnation of Russia marked one of his harshest and most direct to date. On Tuesday, the president and his advisers weighed whether to conduct a stronger retaliatory strike in Syria than the one conducted last year in response to a similar chemical weapons attack, the New York Times adds. Military and national security officials worried that a counter-strike of the same size would not convince the Assad regime to change its behavior, pushing the administration to consider a more robust response. Despite the president’s desire to hit back at the Assad regime, the Post report says Trump remains wary of increasing U.S. involvement in Syria. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters on Wednesday that the administration is still assessing intelligence on the Syrian regime’s attack, Reuters reports.

The World Health Organization stated Wednesday that doctors have treated 500 Syrians for symptoms caused by gas poisoning, Reuters reports. While the organization admitted that it had not participated in forensic investigations into the Syrian regime attack on Douma, it noted that it trained more than 800 Syrian health professionals to recognize the symptoms of chemical weapons exposure. Doctors reported signs of “severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems” According to the WHO, these signs are consistent with symptoms caused by chemical weapons poisoning.

Sens. Thom Tillis (R.-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.), Chris Coons (D.-Del.), and Cory Booker (D.-N.J.) introduced legislation protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, the Politico reports. The bipartisan bill—a fusion of two previous pieces of Mueller protection legislation—provides the special counsel with a 10-day period during which he could seek an expedited judicial review of a firing. While Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not lent the bill his support, he requested the consent of the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), to add the bill to the committee’s agenda for Thursday. Placing the bill on Thursday’s agenda, Politico notes, would likely place the legislation on track for committee markup next week. That Tillis, Graham, Coons, and Booker introduced the new bill, and that Grassley has not halted its progress, indicates how seriously the judiciary panel takes President Trump’s criticism of Mueller and his public consideration of whether to fire the special counsel, says Politico.

Nadia Schadlow, the deputy national security adviser, resigned Wednesday, Politico reports. In a letter to the president, Schadlow stated that she will assist with national security adviser John Bolton’s transition and step down on April 27. Schadlow is the third national security council official to leave their post in recent days. Tom Bossert, the president’s homeland security adviser, resigned Tuesday as Bolton moved to consolidate power in the White House, the Wall Street Journal reports. Bossert counseled President Trump on cybersecurity and counterterrorism, and the president reportedly afforded him the same authority as former national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. One individual familiar with Bossert’s departure claimed that Bolton disliked the idea of parity with the homeland security adviser and sought to assert the primacy of his role and influence on the National Security Council. Bossert’s departure comes as Bolton seeks to bring allies of his own onto the NSC; it follows the resignation of the NSC’s former spokesman, Michael Anton, in protest of Bolton’s arrival.

A British warship joined international efforts to enforce UN sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear and missile programs, Reuters reports. The ship’s primary duty will be to contribute to efforts aimed at monitoring and preventing prohibited trade to North Korea, which plays a significant role in financing Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The warship will police the waters surrounding North Korea and has the authority to board and inspect incoming ships if instructed to do so. The U.K. intends to send two more warships to Asia in the coming months as part of the country’s broader strategy of substantially expanding its presence in the region this year.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In said Wednesday that American and North Korean officials are engaging in meticulous negotiations over the details of upcoming talks between the countries’ leaders, the Times reports. Moon expressed hope that the negotiations will lead to meaningful progress toward denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. It remains unclear what North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might request in exchange for dismantling the country’s nuclear arsenal.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Ashley Deeks flagged an article she wrote arguing that the military’s use of predictive algorithms mirrors law enforcement’s use of algorithms in the criminal justice context.

J. Dana Stuster posted this week’s Middle East Ticker, which examined the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack in Douma, an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian military airbase, President Trump’s weighing how best to respond to the chemical weapons attack, and protests on the Israel-Gaza border.

Stewart Baker posted the Cyberlaw Podcast, an interview with Chris Bing and Patrick Howell O’Neill.

Paul Rosenzweig examined the attorney-client issue and the crime-fraud exception at the heart of the FBI raid on the office of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer.

Chimène Keitner reviewed Yascha Mounk’s new book, “The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It” (Harvard, 2018).

William Ford shared the livestream of and prepared testimony from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the Senate.

Jack Goldsmith and Oona Hathaway offered five legal and practical downsides to bombing Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack on Douma.

Benjamin Wittes argued that the FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen’s office and the president’s ferocious reactions indicate that a confrontation between the president and the Justice Department draws nearer.

Matthew Kahn posted the Lawfare Podcast, a conversation between Benjamin Wittes and Tim Maurer about Maurer’s new book, “Cyber Mercenaries: The State, Hackers, and Power.”

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