Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Hannah Kris
Friday, July 20, 2018, 11:51 AM

Trump announced plans to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington this fall, according to the New York Times. The announcement was made on Twitter by Sarah Huckabee Sanders and came while many in the intelligence community were still trying to decipher what Trump and Putin had discussed in Helsinki on Monday. Many in the intelligence community were frustrated and surprised, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who expressed irritation at the fact that Trump’s meeting with Putin was conducted with only interpreters in the room and said that he “would have suggested a different way.” Trump’s agenda items for the second meeting reportedly include Ukraine, Israel’s security, nuclear proliferation, trade, North Korea, and Middle East peace. The agenda also produced some alarm, as the reference to Ukraine worries some who have aimed to reassure European allies that the United States stands against Russian aggression in the region.

European countries are frantically preparing for Britain’s exit from the European Union, reports the Times. With no firm details as to how an exit would play out, many European countries are preparing for the worst case scenario after the European Commission issued an urgent advisory for European nations to accelerate preparation “at all levels and for all outcomes.” The preparation came in many different forms, with the Netherlands hiring nearly 1,000 additional customs officials, Britain deciding how to handle the transport of medicine, and Ireland preparing for border inspections. The European Union may have reason to worry, as hardline Brexit supporters rebelled against Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for a so-called “soft exit” from the EU, which would allow for “a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products” raising doubt on May’s ability to negotiate a break acceptable to both her government and to Europe.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein warned Americans of continuing Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics, calling the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election “just one tree in a growing forest,” according to the Times. Rosenstein also vowed to crack down on foreign agents and to enforce laws regarding foreign agents in a more timely manner. The comments come at a time where Russia is increasingly in the news, with Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee and of Mariia Butina for trying to influence Republican Party leaders to support pro-Russian policies each occurring less than a week before Rosenstein’s comments.

Six states are suing the Justice Department for withholding grants to local law enforcement agencies as a result of sanctuary city policies, reports the Wall Street Journal. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, is another in a series of legal challenges against the Trump administration’s policies regarding municipalities that do not voluntarily comply with federal immigration enforcement efforts. Courts have offered limited remedies, with a district court judges’ nationwide injunction in response to a suit by the city of Chicago being restricted by an appellate court to just Chicago. That move allowed the administration to distribute nearly $200 million in law enforcement grants to jurisdictions with administration-approved immigration enforcement policies, spurring the new lawsuit, as well as a separate lawsuit filed by California requesting a nationwide injunction for the northern district of California seeking to prevent the withholding of grants from sanctuary jurisdictions.

Hackers in Singapore have stolen the medical records of 1.5 million people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, according to the Journal. The hackers were able to make off with personal data including addresses and identity numbers of people who were patients between May 2015 and July 2018. The hack affects nearly a quarter of Singapore’s population. In addition, hackers were also able to steal the prescription records for 160,000 people, including the prime minister. The hack comes as Singapore is centralizing its health data, highlighting the risks of such moves. One cybersecurity expert said: “The advantages of centralizing data in one place is it’s then much easier to protect it. The downside is-if it gets attacked-you lose everything.” The hack prompted Singapore officials to announce that the country’s digitization plans are now put on hold and that an inquiry into the event would be started.

Scott Smith, Howard Marshall and David Resch, three top cybersecurity experts at the FBI are leaving the government, reports the Journal. So many senior officials departing at the same time is rare at the bureau, and Marshall is stepping away before becoming eligible for retirement benefits, though Smith and Resch are eligible for those benefits. An FBI spokeswoman attributed the departures to the FBI’s surge in special-agent hiring in the late 1990’s, which puts many senior officials at retirement age this year and for the next few years. FBI agents with 20 years of experience are eligible for retirement at age 50; agents with 25 years of experience may retire regardless of age. Others attributed the departure to low morale as a result of attacks from President Trump and congressional Republicans. The departures are worrisome, as new cybersecurity threats from foreign and domestic actors continue to crop up.

Turkey and the Netherlands have agreed to normalize diplomatic relations, according to Reuters. The agreement announcement will bring back a Turkish ambassador to the Netherlands and vice versa; since February, all diplomatic relations have been conducted by lower level diplomats. The conflict between the countries started in March 2017, when members of President Erdogan’s government were prohibited from campaigning among Turkish people in the Netherlands during the Dutch election.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Stephanie Leutert recounted her trip across the U.S.-Mexican border and the struggles of Central-American migrants seeking to cross the border into the United States.

Stephanie Zable explained the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and its relevance to the trade war with China.

Steve Vladeck discussed Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s views on Morrison v. Olson and the use of Morrison to oppose the Mueller protection bill.

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