Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Wednesday, April 18, 2018, 4:36 PM

President Trump confirmed Wednesday that CIA director Mike Pompeo met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as part of the administration’s effort to plan a summit involving direct talks between Kim and Trump, the Washington Post reports. The president tweeted that the meeting, which occurred during Easter weekend, helped establish a good relationship between Washington and Pyongyang. Pompeo’s visit to the reclusive leader marks the highest-level engagement between the U.S. and North Korea since Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed strategic issues with Kim Jong Il in 2000. Trump has said he hopes to meet with Kim by early June.

South Korea is in talks with North Korea and the U.S. aimed at drafting a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War, the New York Times reports. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security adviser, that Pyongyang will surrender its nuclear arms in exchange for certain security guarantees. In the past, North Korea has indicated that a peace treaty to end the Korean war and normalization of ties with Washington would be paramount among those security guarantees. South Korean officials added Wednesday that any final peace treaty would have to involve China, as Beijing supported the North during the Korean War and signed the armistice that brought the violence to a close.

Sen. Richard Burr (R.-N.C.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, announced Wednesday that the panel’s confirmation hearing on the nomination of deputy CIA director Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency will not occur until May, Politico reports. The decision to delay the hearing gives Haspel more time to speak with senators, who continue to press the CIA to disclose more information about the deputy director’s involvement with the Bush administration’s controversial enhanced interrogation program. The agency has not indicated whether it intends to share new information about Haspel’s record. The deputy director’s confirmation hearing was originally scheduled to take place during the last week of April. CIA director Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing on his nomination to serve as secretary of state could occur as early as next week.

On Friday afternoon, a woman tried to enter CIA headquarters with a loaded 9mm pistol, the Post reports. The woman, Beth Hunt, drove from Ohio to the headquarters in Langley. An officer in the agency’s protective service stopped Hunt’s car before she could enter the compound and seized the gun from her handbag after reading a note she handed him indicating the presence of the gun there. Hunt appeared in federal court Tuesday on the charge of possessing a firearm on the grounds of an agency installation. The judge ruled that Hunt should be held without bond.

Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday that President Trump will leave the Iran nuclear deal if America’s European allies fail to address his concerns with the deal, Politico reports. Corker has “some degree of hope” that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron’s coming visits to Washington will help address the president’s concerns with Iran’s missile program, facility inspections, and the deal’s sunset provisions. While European partners seem ready to address the first two concerns, countries like Germany do not want to expand and strengthen sunset provisions. The president believes strengthening these provisions will prevent Iran from restarting its nuclear program, while Merkel argues that changing the provisions amounts to rewriting the deal. On May 12, Trump will decide whether to issue another sanctions waiver through the deal. Should nothing change between now and then, Corker remains confident that Trump will withdraw the U.S. from the fledgling pact.

Unidentified individuals fired on a U.N. security team performing reconnaissance in the town of Douma in advance of inspections by investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Reuters reports. The OPCW inspectors planned to examine sites in the city as part of the watchdog organization’s broader investigation into whether the Assad regime used chemical weapons in its assault on Douma. The small-arms fire which confronted the security teams has led to an indefinite delay of the investigation into the use of toxic weapons, however, as officials struggled to assess when the town would become safe enough for the investigators to enter. Defense Secretary James Mattis accused the Syrian government of intentionally delaying the inspections, citing the regime’s history of trying to erase evidence of chemical weapons attacks.

During a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on U.S. policy in Yemen on Tuesday, Trump administration officials faced harsh questioning from Republican and Democratic lawmakers concerning America’s role in the conflict and its support for Saudi Arabia, the Post reports. The intense questioning reflects growing pressure among U.S. lawmakers for the administration reconsider its role in a war that has caused one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. The hearing comes as a bipartisan contingent of senators on the panel works to advance legislation subjecting American support for Saudi Arabia to a series of benchmark certifications, the foremost of which seeks to reduce civilian casualties drastically and demonstrably.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Stewart Baker posted the Cyberlaw Podcast, which consisted of a news roundup.

Liron Libman explored whether the Israel Defence Forces acted appropriately and lawfully under international law in response to protests along the Gaza border.

Robert Chesney analyzed the most important elements of the 2018 draft authorization for the use of military forces and the questions they raise.

J. Dana Stuster posted the Middle East Ticker, which examined U.S. strikes on Syria in response to the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack on Douma, reports of a Libyan general’s death, and competition between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for business and influence in Somalia.

Matthew Kahn shared the text of a letter that President Trump sent the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate alerting them to U.S. military engagement in Syria on Friday, April 13.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted the National Security Law Podcast, which discussed the events of last Friday, from the president’s authorization of U.S. airstrikes in Syria to the inspector-general report about former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and the raids on the home, hotel room, and office of Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney.

Matthew Kahn shared the Supreme Court’s per curiam ruling declaring the U.S. v. Microsoft case to be moot in light of Congress’s passage of the Cloud Act.

Kahn also posted the Justice Department’s notice to the D.C. federal district court of the government’s intention to transfer John Doe in less than 72 hours.

Elsa Kania suggested that China’s being cagey about how badly it wants killer robots.

William Ford shared the ruling issued by a federal judge in Seattle upholding the court’s primary injunction on the president’s ban on military service by openly transgender individuals and declaring these individuals a protected class.

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