Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Gordon Ahl
Friday, September 20, 2019, 4:14 PM

The Wall Street Journal provides new details about a July call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump allegedly urged the Ukrainians “about eight times” to work with his lawyer Rudy Giulani on a probe into Joe Biden’s son. This comes in the wake of new reporting on the intelligence official’s whistleblower complaint having involved Ukraine and a “promise” by Trump to a foreign official, according to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, the inspector general of the intelligence community testified behind closed doors yesterday before the House Intelligence Committee, where he refused to discuss the contents of the complaint as he claimed he was unauthorized to do so.

The U.S. State Department released a press statement that they are rescinding approximately $100 million in aid to Afghanistan that was planned for a large energy project and withholding an additional $60 million in planned assistance. According to the New York Times, the decision is formally due to the Afghan government’s corruption and past mismanagement of U.S. funds, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to also link the cut in aid to a desire for fair elections, scheduled for Sept. 28.

The Trump administration has finalized an agreement allowing asylum seekers at the U.S. border to be sent to El Salvador to seek refuge there, says the Washington Post. The deal comes amidst a set of policies to deter and lessen the number of migrants applying for asylum on U.S. soil, but U.S. officials insisted this accord does not amount to what has become known as a “safe third country” deal.

Laura Codruta Kovesi of Romania will likely become the head of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which will oversee corruption and fraud that crosses national boundaries in the EU. Ms. Kovesi has gained the support of most EU member states in advance of a vote expected in a few weeks, reports the BBC. She was formerly Romania’s anti-corruption chief where she scaled up conviction rates in one of the EU’s most corrupt countries before being fired.

Facebook announced that it had suspended “tens of thousands” of apps related to an investigation of improper use of Facebook members’ data by independent app developers, reports the New York Times. This number is far higher than what had been revealed previously, since Facebook started these investigations last March following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The New York Times reports that the scope of the FBI’s use of secret subpoenas of personal data is much broader than previously known. The new documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that the FBI sought information from more than 120 companies and entities including banks, cell phone carriers and universities.

Lawyers representing former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe stated yesterday that the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office has not informed them whether a grand jury declined to indict McCabe last week. The lawyers also complained about leaks to the media that they allege come from the Justice Department, according to the Washington Post.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Bob Bauer analyzed the decisions of James Comey, Robert Mueller and Don McGahn to bend rules and norms in response to the challenges of Trump’s presidency.

Amy Zeng discussed the first-ever joint naval exercise between the United States and all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the latest installment of the Water Wars series on Lawfare.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the latest episode of the National Security Law Podcast, which centers primarily on the ongoing scandal stemming from an intelligence community official’s whistleblower complaint.

Gordon Ahl posted two letters from the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to the congressional intelligence committees regarding his assessment of the whistleblower complaint.

Ahl also posted new filings in President Trump’s lawsuit against the Manhattan District Attorney over the DA’s attempts to obtain Trump’s tax returns.

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