Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Elliot Setzer
Wednesday, May 13, 2020, 12:45 PM

A federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn yesterday said he would set a schedule for outside parties to present arguments about the Justice Department’s motion to drop the case, suggesting he is open to the arguments of those opposed to the government’s move, reports the New York Times. Judge Emmett Sullivan ultimately has some limited discretion to decide whether to accept the Justice Department’s decision to abandon the case.

Acting director of intelligence Richard Grenell has given the Justice Department the name of Obama administration officials who “unmasked” Michael Flynn following his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States in 2016, according to the Washington Post. Unmasking is a routine practice used to identify a U.S. person who is anonymously referred to in an intelligence document.

A militant attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul on Tuesday killed 24 people, including two newborn babies, writes the Associated Press. In a televised speech hours after the attack, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered the country’s security forces to go into an “offensive mode” against the Taliban, reports Reuters. Afghan security forces had taken a defensive posture as part of efforts to reduce violence and forge a peace deal with the militant group.

At a Senate hearing yesterday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, cautioned that if parts of the country reopen too quickly, “there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak you may not be able to control, which, in fact, paradoxically, will set you back,” writes the New York Times. Top public health officials at the hearing also warned that a vaccine would almost certainly not come in time for the return to school in the fall.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats are planning to hold a Friday vote on a $3 trillion package to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite protests from progressives that the bill doesn’t include a “paycheck guarantee” for small-business payrolls, according to Politico.

The Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments on whether the powers of the presidency and other concerns inhibit state prosecutors and House committees seeking to obtain information about his business affairs, reports the New York Times. A majority of justices appeared skeptical of Mr. Trump’s argument that he was absolutely immune from criminal investigation while in office, but seemed more receptive to his arguments that three House committees had asked for too much information for reasons unrelated to their legislative responsibilities—raising the possibility of a split decision.

The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the 9/11 terror attacks: the identity of a Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected of supporting two of the al-Qaeda hijackers, writes Yahoo news. The disclosure came in a new declaration filed by senior FBI officials in response to a lawsuit brought by families of the victims who accuse the Saudi government of complicity in the attacks. A U.S. government official confirmed the disclosure was made in error.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Israel yesterday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his unity government partner Benny Gantz, according to CNN. The visit comes as the country eyes annexing parts of the West Bank and grapples with the coronavirus pandemic,

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was released to home confinement for the remainder of his sentence today amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus in federal prison, reports NBC News.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast discussing the Supreme Court’s hearing of oral arguments yesterday in two cases about Trump’s tax returns.

Charlotte Butash provided a Supreme Court oral argument preview for the Trump financial documents cases.

Margaret Taylor analyzed five amendments to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reform that the Senate will vote on this week.

Gordon Ahl shared interview transcripts from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Erica Borghard argued Cyber Command needs new acquisition authorities.

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