Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 2:43 PM

The federal judge for the southern district of New York denied President Trump’s request to review the materials seized by the FBI from the home, office, and hotel room of Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime lawyer, prior to the review of the material by federal prosecutors, the New York Times reports. The president’s lawyers submitted the request to determine which of the documents seized by the bureau might be privileged between Trump and Cohen. Despite deciding against the president, Judge Kimba Wood decided not to grant prosecutors immediate access to the seized material either. Rather, Wood indicated that she’s considering choosing an independent third-party, or “special master,” to help perform an initial review of the information. She added that the president will receive copies of all documents relevant to him.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will formally announce his willingness to denuclearize at the Korean summit at the end of April, the Times reports. Kim intends to make the announcement alongside South Korean leader Moon Jae In as part of a joint declaration. Negotiations remain underway; subjects of discussion include the exact language and certain aspects of the joint statement, such as whether the Koreas should hold regular summits and whether the two leaders will hold a joint press conference after the summit.

The Supreme Court declared U.S. v. Microsoft moot on Tuesday and invalidated a previous ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the case, SCOTUSblog reports. The court’s decision follows the passage of legislation, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, that resolved the cross-border data sharing dispute at the heart of U.S. v. Microsoft—whether the government can require email service providers to disclose emails held in servers outside the government’s jurisdiction. The Cloud Act confirmed the government’s right to do so.

The Republican chairmen of three powerful House committees extended the deadline for the Justice Department to submit copies of the memos that former FBI director James Comey wrote about his interactions with President Trump, Politico reports. Reps. Devin Nunes of the intelligence committee, Bob Goodlatte of the judiciary committee and Trey Gowdy of the oversight committee initially demanded that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein turn over the memos by Monday afternoon. After Rosenstein contacted the chairmen and asked for “a few more days,” the trio acquiesced. The documents are believed to rest at the center of the special counsel’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice by the president.

In a joint pledge issued Tuesday, more than 30 global technology companies, including Facebook and Microsoft, announced that they will not aid any government in undertaking offensive cyber attacks, Reuters reports. The pledge, entitled the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, promises to defend all users from potential attacks regardless of their motive. It also vows to establish official and unofficial partnerships within the tech industry and in conjunction with security researchers to share threat assessments and vulnerability disclosures. Brad Smith, the president and general counsel of Microsoft, called on countries to develop international rules for cyberattacks similar to the rules governing conventional armed conflict laid out by the 1949 Geneva Convention. For Smith, the Cybersecurity Tech Accord constitutes a digital Geneva Convention of sorts; it marks a strong industry response to the numerous and extraordinarily destructive cyberattacks witnessed throughout the past year.

The Trump administration is working to assemble an Arab force to replace the remaining U.S. forces in Syria and stabilize the northeastern portion of the country to prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State, the Wall Street Journal reports. The administration has already requested that Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates contribute billions of dollars to the stabilization and restoration of northern Syria. According to U.S. officials, national security adviser John Bolton recently spoke with Egypt’s chief of intelligence about whether the country would contribute soldiers to a joint Arab effort in Syria. The administration has reached out to its Gulf partners with similar questions. Scholars such as Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute note, however, that without the assurance of a sustained U.S. presence in Syria, countries in the region will remain loath to committing troops of their own—particularly to efforts aimed at securing and revitalizing portions of the country not currently controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have entered the town of Douma, the site of the Assad regime’s latest chemical weapons attack, the Reuters reports. Though investigators from the watchdog organization arrived in Damascus on Saturday, Moscow cited “security issues” as a basis for preventing the team from entering the town until Tuesday. The delay between the arrival of the OPCW investigators and their entrance into the city has generated concerns among Western countries that Russia or Syria has tampered with evidence of the chemical weapons attack in Douma, the BBC adds. The Assad regime and Russia continue to insist that the attack did not occur.

According to a government filing, the U.S. government intends to transfer John Doe in no less than 72 hours. Judge Tanya Chutkan plans to hold a hearing on the matter tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. in the D.C. District Court.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Molly Reynolds outlined the potential procedural hurdles facing the Mueller protection bills.

Jack Goldsmith argued that constitutional law and international law share similar uncertainties about the meaning and efficacy of war powers.

Laurie Blank argued that the Trump administration’s moral justification for the U.S. strikes in Syria appears to be an attempt to create lawfulness where there is none.

Matthew Kahn posted the draft authorization for the use of military force against designated terrorist groups that Sens. Corker, Kaine, Flake, Coons, Young, and Nelson introduced.

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