Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Thursday, July 2, 2020, 3:34 PM

Newly released footage from a Florida police department shows officers laughing after firing rubber bullets into a crowd of protestors, according to the Hill. The video, which was recorded from an officer’s body camera at a May 31st Black Lives Matter rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, depicts officers celebrating with profanities after hitting demonstrators with tear gas and impact ammunition.

The Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday that it will deploy personnel across the country to protect statues and memorials from “violent anarchists and rioters,” reports NPR. Last week, President Trump issued an executive order demanding action against the destruction of monuments after protestors in Washington, D.C. attempted to take down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson. This comes as American demonstrators continue to call for the removal of monuments amid a nationwide reckoning with legacies of racial injustice in the United States.

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended a $1 billion budget cut from the city’s police department, writes NPR. President Trump slammed the decision in a tweet, writing, “this will further antagonize New York’s Finest.” The president also condemned Manhattan’s plan to paint “Black Lives Matter” along Fifth Avenue, calling it a “symbol of hate.”

In Hong Kong, the passing of a new law designed to stifle dissent against Beijing has prompted ordinary citizens to censor their support for the antigovernment movement, according to the Wall Street Journal. In a city that is accustomed to freedom of speech, people have begun removing posters and deleting comments that reference independence for the city as new fears of retribution from the Chinese government have set in. “The movement is still going on, but our focus has been shifted away from the streets,” said Jonathan Chan, co-owner of a restaurant that has publicly supported the pro-democracy protests. “We need to protect our lives first before we can do more.”

Several governments including the U.S. and Britain have proposed creating special immigration measures to offer Hong Kong residents refugee status in their countries, writes the Post. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a legal waiver Wednesday that would grant up to three million Hong Kongers entry into the U.K. with the opportunity to eventually apply for full citizenship.

The U.S. reported nearly 50,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, marking a new single-day case record, reports the Times. As the nation heads into a holiday weekend, state officials are putting the brakes on plans to reopen, asking their constituents to stay home and respect social distancing regulations.

After reviewing classified intelligence, Republican Senator Pat Toomey called for a Senate briefing on reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, writes the Hill. This comes following news stories alleging a covert Russian operation that involved paying Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan. “If it is concluded that Russia offered bounties to murder American soldiers, a firm American response is required in short order,” Toomey said in a statement on Wednesday.

Russian military officials have recently increased the frequency and range of their submarine exercises in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the Journal. NATO officials and analysts say this resurgence of Russian naval operations demonstrates Moscow’s resolve to project power into the Atlantic and could pose a strategic threat to the U.S. and its allies.

The Supreme Court today announced that it will hear an appeal by the Trump administration to keep materials from the Mueller probe of Russian election interference from being released to Congress, reports the Journal. This comes after the Justice Department declined to grant the House Judiciary Committee access to redacted material and grand-jury records from the Mueller report during the impeachment probe. Both a federal trial judge and an appeals court ruled that the committee could have the material. The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the appeal likely means the materials will not become public before the presidential election.

Stocks rose sharply today as the June jobs report exceeded predictions and the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 percent, writes the Hill. However, the gap between the unemployment rates for Black and white people in the U.S. widened further in June, reaching its largest disparity in five years, according to Reuters.

Today, the Post documented the stories of the soldiers in Clint Lorance’s 1st platoon and their reactions to his pardon. Lieutenant Lorance had served six years of a 19-year sentence for war crimes committed in Afghanistan when he was pardoned by President Trump in late 2019. Five of the platoon’s three dozen soldiers have died since their return home in 2013, while at least four others have been hospitalized due to suicide attempts or struggles with addiction.

Late Wednesday, U.S. federal prosecutors filed a civil-forfeiture complaint to seize four tankers of Iranian gasoline bound for Venezuela, reports the Journal. This move marks the latest U.S. escalation in a broad campaign to pressure Tehran and Caracas into meeting American demands.

The Ethiopian government shut down the country’s internet on Tuesday amid civil unrest following the killing of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa, writes the Post. Details remain unclear due to difficulties with communications in the country, but reports have surfaced alleging at least 81 deaths have occurred in the past two days. The dead include both protestors and security forces.

On Wednesday, a New York court lifted a temporary restraining order blocking the publication of a book by Mary Trump, the president’s niece, according to the Post. The move will allow the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, to continue the distribution process while the court evaluates the merits of the claim made against Ms. Trump. Mary Trump’s lawyer has announced plans to file a brief today arguing to remove the injunction against her, which remained in place even after the lifting of the temporary restraining order.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security on the secret Russian bounty plot to kill U.S. soldiers.

Adira Levine discussed recent court decisions requiring increased transparency into the activities of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

Stewart A. Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast discussing encryption, cyber espionage aimed at coronavirus researchers, and the inevitability of facial recognition, among other things.

Elliot Setzer posted a livestream of the House Intelligence Committee’s hearing on post-COVID U.S. relations with China.

Setzer also shared a livestream of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s hearing on the implications of Beijing’s new national security law in Hong Kong.

Chuck Rosenberg argued that last week’s testimony by Justice Department lawyer John Elias provides disturbing insight into political interference within the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice.

Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring an interview with Chimène Keitner and Robert Williams on efforts from private Americans to sue the Chinese government over its mishandling of the coronavirus.

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