Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Elliot Setzer
Thursday, March 26, 2020, 12:13 PM

The Senate last night unanimously approved a $2 trillion emergency relief bill to tackle the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, reports the Washington Post. The 880-page bill would send checks to over 150 million American households, set up extensive loan programs for businesses and boost spending for unemployment insurance programs and hospitals.

The Pentagon on Wednesday ordered a 60-day stop to all troop movement overseas in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 within the military, writes the Hill. Defense Department leaders are trying to determine the military’s role in safeguarding the United States from the novel coronavirus while maintaining force preservation and readiness, according to the New York Times.

A man was charged with making terroristic threats on Tuesday after he intentionally coughed on a New Jersey supermarket employee and told her he had the coronavirus, reports the New York Times.

A push by the State Department to include the phrase “Wuhan virus” in a joint statement with other G7 members was rejected, dividing the group and resulting in separate statements, writes CNN. The draft statement by the United States sought to blame China for the pandemic’s spread. The Trump administration has also pushed the U.N. Security Council to call out the Chinese origins of the novel coronavirus, according to NBC News. Analysts suggest that this campaign effectively stalled a Security Council resolution and joint declaration on the crisis.

Reuters reports that France will withdraw all troops stationed in Iraq due to the novel coronavirus, though it will continue air operations against ISIS.

Russia will suspend all regular and charter flights to and from the country and will close all shops apart from grocery stores and pharmacies, writes Reuters. President Putin said today that Russia could defeat coronavirus in less than three months.

The British Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the British government must withhold key evidence from the United States for the trial of two Islamic State detainees being held by the American military in Iraq, reports the New York Times. The Trump administration has not provided assurances that the men—Britons who handled and beheaded Western hostages—will not be executed. Britain, for its part, has abolished the death penalty. The British government had stripped the two detainees of their citizenship.

The Afghan government said yesterday that it would free 100 Taliban detainees at the end of March, raising doubts about the fate of a 5,000 prisoner release deal with the militant group, writes Reuters.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was charged in the U.S. with drug trafficking crimes, including narco-terrorism conspiracy and conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, according to the New York Times. Charges are also expected to be announced against members of the Venezuelan government and intelligence service as well as the FARC, the largest rebel group in Columbia.

The White House removed a top public affairs official at the Department of Homeland Security, Heather Swift, after the Presidential Personnel Office raised questions about her loyalty to the President, reports Politico.

The FBI announced yesterday night that a domestic terrorism suspect was allegedly planning to use a car bomb at a local medical facility, writes ABC News. The suspect, who was killed during an attempt to apprehend him outside of Kansas City, Missouri, had been actively planning a bombing over the course of several months and decided to target a hospital following news of the coronavirus pandemic.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jack Goldsmith and Ben Miller-Gootnick argued that the Presidential Succession Act is a disaster waiting to happen.

Jen Patja Howell shared the most recent episode of Rational Security, discussing the Trump administration’s response to the novel coronavirus.

Stewart Baker argued that recovered COVID-19 patients could be a vital resource for public health and for the economy.

Margaret Taylor and Ben Wittes analyzed what’s in the Justice Department’s proposals to Congress for issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shibley Telhami and Stella Rouse shared findings from a poll examining how American views of the coronavirus crisis have evolved over time.

Lester Munson shared the most recent episode of Fault Lines, discussing U.S.-Iranian policy with Rich Goldberg, former Director for Countering Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction for the White House National Security Council.

Evelyn Douek analyzed the implications of COVID-19 for social media content moderation.

Jen Patja Howell shared a Lawfare Podcast Short, in which David Priess asks: How do you spy when the world is shut down?

Scott Anderson shared the details for a Lawfare Zoom webinar on how the COVID-19 crisis may change the field of national security, this Friday at 2:00 p.m. ET.

David Forscey and Herb Lin argued that “just say no” is not a strategy for supply chain security.

Susan Landau argued that determining whether surveillance will help combat COVID-19 requires understanding how the virus spreads and how cell phone tracking works.

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