Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Hannah Kris
Friday, August 3, 2018, 3:35 PM

Senior intelligence officials described Russian interference as an ongoing threat to the United States during a Thursday press briefing at the White house, according to the Wall Street Journal. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters that President Trump had instructed intelligence agencies to prioritize election hacking. FBI Director Christopher Wray, who also spoke at the briefing, presented a more optimistic picture of Russian interference, saying that “the same kinds of efforts to specifically target election infrastructure,” such as voter registrations, seen in 2016 have not yet taken place in the run-up to the 2018 elections. Instead, Wray said, Russia has focused on a campaign of “information warfare.” NSA director Paul Nakasone said his agency is prepared to deter adversaries that try to meddle in the election. National security adviser John Bolton and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen also spoke at the press conference. Trump did not respond to the briefing, but did criticize the probe into Russian interference calling it a “hoax.”

A bipartisan group of senators have introduced legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia and restrict the president’s ability to withdraw from NATO, reports Reuters. The bill, which Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has dubbed the “sanctions bill from hell,” targets Russian oligarchs as well as Russian oil projects and uranium imports. The bill also requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate for the U.S. to leave NATO. The bill seemed to destabilize Russian markets, with the ruble declining to a two-week low after the measure was announced.

Paul Manafort’s long-time bookkeeper testified at his trial on Thursday that he had tried to secure loans by altering financial records, according to the Washington Post. Manafort, who faces bank-fraud and tax evasion charges, has attributed all of his alleged financial misdeeds to his partner, Rick Gates. In Heather Washkuhn’s hours-long testimony, however, she asserted that Manafort oversaw “every penny,” contradicting the defense counsel’s claims.

Twenty-nine people were killed and 81 wounded in a suicide bombing in a Shiite Muslim mosque in Afghanistan, reports the Associated Press. Early Friday morning, as Muslims gathered for prayer, several attackers disguised in burkas opened fire on the mosque’s security guards before setting off explosives inside the mosque. While no group initially claimed credit, many blamed Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate.

Saudi missile attacks on the Yemeni city of Hodeidah killed more than 30 people at a fish market on Thursday, according to the New York Times. The attacks were meant to target the Houthi rebels who occupy the city. Aid groups in the area criticized the attacks for causing undue civilian suffering, and the United Nations special representative for Yemen proposed renewing peace talks. The siege against Hodeidah is expected to continue.

Emmerson Mnangagwa has been elected president of Zimbabwe in the first election since Robert Mugabe’s removal last November, reports Reuters. Mnangagwa, who was installed after Mugabe’s removal, defeated his counterpart, Nelson Chamisa, by 300,000 votes, and narrowly avoided a runoff by winning just over 50 percent of the vote. The optimism over the election was marred by the deaths of six demonstrators, who were killed by soldiers while protesting the what they believed was an illegitimate election.

China threatened the U.S. with a new round of tariffs against $60 billion of U.S. products on Thursday, according to the Journal. The tariffs are seen as a retaliation against the U.S.’s latest proposed tariffs  of $200 billion against Chinese goods and provisions in the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which provide funding to counter Chinese activity in the South China Sea and Chinese pursuits of cutting-edge American technology.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic posted D.C. District Court Judge Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling on a motion to quash a subpoena issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The response affirmed the constitutionality of Mueller’s appointment.

Stephanie Zable described the new Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act, or FIRRMA.

Bob Bauer laid out the advice that a reasonable election lawyer would give the Trump campaign about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes updated their 2017 post “Seven Theories of the Case: What Do We Really Know about L’Affaire Russe and What Could it all Mean?

Scott Harman summarized the June issue of Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, a special edition on the law of armed conflict.

Brenna Gautman recounted the July 23 and July 25 sessions of the military commissions hearings in the case against the 9/11 conspirators.

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