Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Rachel Brown
Friday, December 21, 2018, 12:50 PM

Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, reports the Washington Post. In his resignation letter, released on Thursday evening, Mattis emphasized the strength the United States derives from alliances, and he said President Trump had a “right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned” with the president’s on those topics. Mattis will depart from his current position in February.

The Trump administration has ordered the withdrawal approximately 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, just a day after the president decided to remove nearly 2,000 troops from Syria, says the New York Times. The order will reduce the American military presence in Afghanistan by approximately half.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a militia led by Kurdish forces in eastern Syria, said it may release 1,100 Islamic State fighters along with roughly 2,000 of their family members, reports the Times.

President Trump warned on Twitter that “there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time” if Senate Democrats vote to oppose funding for a wall at the southern border. Congress and the President have until midnight tonight to avoid a government shutdown and agree on a spending bill, reports the Post.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker disregarded advice from Justice Department ethics officials in deciding not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, reports the Associated Press. Whitaker had previously criticized the Mueller investigation, which raised concerns among department officials about perceptions of his objectivity.

The U.N. Security Council will vote today on a resolution to allow international monitors to oversee a ceasefire implementation in Hodeidah, Yemen’s fourth largest city and main port for humanitarian assistance, according to the Post.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Daniel Byman analyzed the consequences of the Trump administration’s announced withdrawal from Syria.

Peter Margulies reviewed a federal court’s grant of a preliminary injunction against the new Department of Homeland Security rule preventing individuals from applying for asylum at anywhere other than ports-of-entry.

Laurence Tribe defended the position that the Constitution allows for a sitting president to be indicted.

Mikhaila Fogel and Benjamin Wittes analyzed a recently revealed memo on obstruction of justice by William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general.

Matthew Kahn shared a video of a press conference in which the Justice Department announced charges against two Chinese government-associated hackers for conspiring to commit computer intrusions.

Zach ZhenHe Tan assessed the impact of Jesner v. Arab Bank on the Alien Tort Statutes.

Sarah Grant provided an update on the case of a Blackwater guard found guilty of murder by a D.C. jury for his involvement in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre of Iraqi civilians.

Paul Rosenzweig wished Lawfare readers a wonderful holiday season.

Quinta Jurecic shared two documents: Mattis’s resignation letter and a letter from the Justice Department to Senate leadership about the advice provided to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker regarding whether he should recuse from the Russia investigation and Whitaker's decision not to recuse.

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