Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Thursday, April 12, 2018, 12:13 PM

Today’s news post is shorter than usual. Our normal coverage will resume tomorrow.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department provided Rep. Devin Nunes (R.-Calif.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, with access to a redacted document outlining the beginning of the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the Washington Post reports. Gaining access to the document placated Nunes, who the day before threatened to impeach senior FBI and Justice Department officials for failing to provide him with the document.

Thursday morning, President Trump dismissed a New York Times report saying that he considered firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller in December, Politico reports. The president clarified on Twitter that he would have already fired Mueller if he wanted to.

President Trump tweeted Thursday that the U.S. response to Syria could come “soon or not so soon at all,” the New York Times reports. Trump sent the tweet in an effort to walk back his tweet the day before indicating that an American response to the chemical weapons attack in Douma is imminent. France announced Thursday that it has proof the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Douma. German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Germany would not support or participate in a Western military response to the chemical assault. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May ordered the British navy to move submarines within missile-striking range of Syria in preparation for a Western retaliatory strike, the Daily Telegraph adds.

Deputy national security adviser Ricky Waddell will leave his post on the national security council, Axios reports. Waddell marks the fourth senior national security council official to leave the administration in recent days. His departure comes as national security adviser John Bolton works to consolidate power in the White House and bring in his own team.

Court records reveal that the special counsel investigation obtained 35 subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify in the trial of Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign manager, on charges of bank and tax fraud in Virginia federal court in July, Politico reports. Manafort will also stand trial in Washington in September on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent. In a court filing submitted Wednesday, Manafort’s attorneys urged a federal judge to rein in the special counsel investigation, which it alleges is “fervently pursuing” their client on charges unrelated to the Virginia or D.C. cases.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed the U.K.’s assertion that the chemical used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil was the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, the Post reports. The OPCW did not specify who created the agent and when, but the report released by the watchdog emphasized the high purity of the nerve agent. The U.K. contends that the high purity of the toxic chemical—and Moscow’s production of Novichok-class agents in the past decade—suggests that it was made in a Russian government laboratory.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jack Goldsmith examined the cycles of panicked reactions to President Trump’s threats to remove senior Justice Department officials.

William Ford posted the live video of and prepared statement from Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Ford also shared the livestreams of and prepared testimony from the House Armed Services Committee hearing on cyber operations and the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on special operations.

Daniel Byman offered several steps to consider if the U.S. decided to push back against growing Russian influence in the Middle East.

Chris Meserole argued that even if the president authorizes an airstrike against the Assad regime to punish its use of chemical weapons in Douma, the strike is unlikely to deter future chemical weapons attacks given the president’s desire to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.

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