Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck
Monday, July 13, 2020, 5:08 PM

President Trump commuted the sentence of Republican operative Roger Stone on Friday evening before Stone was scheduled to report to federal prison on Tuesday, reports the New York Times. Stone was convicted of interfering with a congressional investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s connections with Russia and was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison. The White House statement announcing Stone’s clemency called Stone “a victim of the Russia Hoax” and denied “any collusion between the Trump Campaign...with Russia.” The commutation comes after controversy surrounding unusual intervention into Stone’s sentencing. After four Justice Department prosecutors recommended Stone receive a prison sentence between seven and nine years in accordance with Justice Department sentencing guidelines, President Trump criticized their recommendation for being overly harsh. Department of Justice officials reversed the prosecutors’ recommendation and suggested a less severe sentence for Stone.

In light of Stone’s commutation, former special counsel for the Justice Department Robert Mueller defended the department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and affirmed Stone’s criminality in a Saturday op-ed in the Washington Post.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan filed a petition Friday requesting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reevaluate en banc whether he is required to dismiss the Justice Department’s prosecution of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, writes the Post. On June 24, a three-judge panel ordered Judge Sullivan to dismiss the case against Flynn. The 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court will now determine whether to rehear Sullivan’s case.

Janik Amin, a sergeant in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office in Tampa, Florida has been fired and charged with a felony after he reportedly pointed his gun inches from the head of a handcuffed Black man and threatened to kill him when the man refused to tell the officer his name, writes the Post. The deputies who witnessed the encounter reported the incident to the command staff immediately after it happened. Many police departments around the country have instituted reporting requirements in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

After an increase of one million coronavirus cases in the last five days, worldwide infections topped 13 million on Monday, reports Reuters. The U.S. detected over 69,000 new cases on July 10, marking the highest number of infections reported on a single day in any country since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Austin Beutner, announced Monday that Los Angeles schools will not reopen in-person on August 18, the scheduled start date, according to the Los Angeles Times. Beutner has not set a date for the schools to resume in-class learning.

On Saturday, the White House criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), for his assessment of the coronavirus outbreak early on in the pandemic, reports the Post. President Trump has reportedly not spoken to Fauci since early June after initially relying on him heavily.

On Monday, China announced new sanctions on three U.S. Congress members who have supported legislation targeting Chinese governmental affairs and mainland businesses, writes Reuters. The Chinese announcement comes in response to U.S. sanctions imposed last week on Chinese officials with connections to the systematic abuse of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

After recently criticizing the Chinese government’s aggressive stance in the South China Sea, the U.S. will reportedly formally reject several Chinese claims to territory in the South China Sea, according to the Wall Street Journal. In an apparent demonstration of naval prowess, the U.S. executed large-scale exercises in the region last month.

U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russia has been assisting the Taliban in its fight against coalition forces for approximately eight years, writes the Times. Reports suggest that the Taliban's connection with Russia became clear during a surge in violence in 2015. Last month, the Times reported that the Russian military offered bounties to Taliban militants as a reward for killing coalition soldiers.

President Trump has recently demonstrated support for QAnon, an online community driven by unfounded anti-government conspiracy theories, according to Politico. On July 4, Trump retweeted 14 posts from accounts that support the group; and since the middle of March, the President has retweeted approximately 90 posts from 49 pro-QAnon accounts. The FBI alleges that QAnon may be driving domestic terrorism.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes discussed the corrupt nature of President Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence.

Jack Goldsmith and Matt Gluck analyzed the character of President Trump’s pardons and commutations thus far.

Andrew Scobell explained the history of Wuhan, China and what it reveals about the Chinese Communist Party.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.