Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck
Thursday, July 23, 2020, 5:40 PM

Federal agents continued using explosives and firing tear gas into groups of protesters in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday, reports the Washington Post. The protests began in Portland almost two months ago, following George Floyd’s killing. Recently, legal analysts have condemned the Trump administration’s deployment of federal agents to Portland. Ted Wheeler, Portland’s mayor and police commissioner, joined the demonstrators Wednesday after criticizing the federal government’s response. However, components of the crowd denounced Wheeler’s leadership and called for his resignation.

A federal judge, Michael Mosman, appeared resistant to a lawsuit brought by the state of Oregon against the Trump administration over its deployment of unidentified federal agents in Portland, according to Politico. In a Wednesday hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Mosman said, “I can’t do anything about how terrifying it is to be arrested by the police. It is terrifying to be lawfully arrested.”

President Trump said Wednesday that the Department of Justice would send hundreds of federal personnel to cities around the country, including Chicago and Albuquerque, citing a rise in violent activity, writes the New York Times. Attorney General William Barr purported to distinguish the deployment of additional agents in these contexts from the “operations and tactical teams” used to counter “riots and mob violence,” a likely reference to the protests in Portland.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered Thursday that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, be released from prison to home confinement, reports the Post. Judge Hellerstein determined that the Justice Department’s decision to bring Cohen back into custody was an unlawful retaliation against Cohen for his forthcoming book, which is purportedly harshly critical of President Trump. Cohen had filed a lawsuit earlier this week against Attorney General William Barr and several Bureau of Prison officials. The Justice Department transferred Cohen from home confinement back to prison earlier this month, alleging among other things that Cohen was “antagonistic” during a probation meeting.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it deported Adham A. Hassoun, a Palestinian man who was convicted in 2007 of supporting terrorist activity, writes the Times. The government had argued that it had the authority to indefinitely detain Hassoun after his release from prison pursuant to a provision in the USA Patriot Act which granted the government the authority to designate an individual convicted of terrorism-related charges a threat to national security, without having to prove the nature of that threat in court. However, on June 29, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford found that the government lacked basis for detaining Hassoun.

The Department of Justice charged four researchers Thursday with lying about their affiliation with China’s People’s Liberation Army in Visa applications. According to court filings, the FBI believes the Chinese consulate of San Francisco is harboring one of the Chinese researchers, reports Axios.

In two reports released Thursday, cybersecurity experts alleged that a vulnerability in an app on Google’s Android network allowed a Chinese drone company, Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), to collect significant amounts of users’ personal information, writes the Times. The reports also contended that the Chinese government may have gained access to the information obtained by DJI. The U.S. Department of the Interior decided to ground its fleet of DJI drones in January. These reports come as the U.S. government continues to warn against the use of Chinese tech platforms and products.

The Army said Wednesday that it would stop using its channels on the online streaming platform Twitch, according to the Times. The military banned an activist from its channel on July 8 after the user asked in a chat, “what’s your favorite u.s. w4r cr1me?”, substituting numbers in the place of letters to evade the channel’s content moderation settings. Before pausing its channels, the military faced accusations that it was unlawfully restricting free speech by banning users who send particular types of messages.

George Kent, a high-profile State Department official who testified against President Trump during the impeachment hearings, has reportedly agreed to speak with a Senate committee conducting an investigation of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, reports Politico.

The House passed a bill Wednesday with bipartisan support that would remove several statues memorializing prominent Confederate figures from the Capitol, writes Politico. It is unclear whether the Senate or President Trump will approve of the legislation.

The House also passed a measure Wednesday that would revoke the Trump administration’s broad restrictions on the entrance into the United States of refugees and asylum-seekers from certain countries, writes Politico. Congressional Republicans, however, claim the legislation would serve as an overly burdensome check on the president’s authority to address national security threats.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee is meeting to vote on two bills concerning executive authority, writes the Post. The first would limit the scope of the president’s pardon authority and the second would pause the statute of limitations on crimes a president commits while in office.

A draft summary of a new Senate Republican and White House coronavirus economic stimulus bill allots $16 billion for COVID-19 testing and reserves only a portion of education funds for schools planning on reopening in the fall, reports the Times. The proposal does not include a payroll tax cut, which was previously championed by the Trump administration. On Thursday, the U.S. surpassed four million coronavirus cases.

Approximately three-fourths of voters in the United States will be permitted to vote-by-mail in the 2020 presidential election, finds the Washington Post. Many states have changed their voting processes to make them more conducive to mail-in voting, but voters in nine states are still required to provide a non-coronavirus-related justification to vote-by-mail.

Internal FBI data show a significant increase since the beginning of the pandemic in attempts to purchase firearms by individuals who are not authorized to own guns, reports Politico.

A 93-year-old man was convicted in Germany on Thursday for assisting the Nazis as a guard at a concentration camp over 75 years ago, according to the Times.

China launched its first mission to Mars Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal. China would be the third country to successfully land a rover on Mars, joining Russia and the United States.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared a discussion on the Lawfare Podcast about the European Court of Justice’s Schrems II decision. Lawfare’s Scott Anderson spoke with Peter Swire, professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology; and Stewart Baker, of counsel at Steptoe & Johnson. They discussed the decision’s implications for European Union privacy requirements concerning data transfers.

Jacob Schulz shared a House Permanent Select Committee letter sent to the Department of Homeland Security requesting an explanation of alleged DHS intelligence actions in response to protest activities.

Daphna Renan argued that the duality of the institution of the presidency and the individual president serves as the defining feature of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Vance and Mazars.

Elliot Setzer shared a livestream of a House Homeland Security hearing on the national response to the surging coronavirus pandemic.

Nathaniel Sobel discussed the recent developments in the Trump v. Vance case following the Supreme Court’s July 9 decision.

Chas Kissick shared a Justice Department indictment against two allegedly government-sponsored Chinese citizens charged with conspiring to hack coronavirus-related intellectual property, among other things.

Matt Gluck shared a military commission judge’s order granting Majid Khan, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, a one-year administrative credit toward his eventual sentence.

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security featuring a discussion about the federal government’s response to the Portland protests and the U.S. indictment of two Chinese hackers.

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