Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Thursday, July 30, 2020, 3:35 PM

A D.C. federal appeals court will rehear en banc the case of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to the Washington Post. Oral arguments are set for August 11. Flynn, who initially pleaded guilty on charges of making false statements to federal law enforcements in connection with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, has found support from President Trump and his administration. Earlier this year, Attorney General William Barr stepped in to drop the prosecution against Flynn, arguing that the FBI interviewed Flynn without “any legitimate investigative bias.”

On Wednesday, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf announced a withdrawal of federal agents from Portland, Oregon, according to the Wall Street Journal. This move follows broad criticism of the federal presence in Portland. Kate Brown, governor of Oregon, said that state police will now be deployed to downtown Portland to protect the federal courthouse.

A new mandatory Pentagon training course launched as part of Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s campaign to protect against leaks refers to protesters and journalists as “adversaries,” writes Politico. “It brings to mind the same tin ear Secretary Esper recently demonstrated when he used the military term battlespace to describe America’s city streets,” said George Little, former Pentagon press secretary and CIA spokesperson in the Obama administration.

Chinese officials barred 12 candidates, including several prominent pro-democracy activists, from Hong Kong’s September legislative election, reports the New York Times. In a statement, Beijing said that grounds for disqualification included taking actions related to advocating for Hong Kong’s independence. Joshua Wong, one of the barred candidates, wrote on Facebook, “The excuse they use is that I describe national security law as a draconian law.”

Activists have alleged that the Chinese government is using coronavirus quarantines as a new pretext for detaining dissidents, according to the Times. Frances Eve, deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, claimed that detainees are typically “not allowed to communicate with the outside world, held in a secret location and not given the option to self-isolate at home,” calling the treatment “a de facto enforced disappearance.”

New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would free about 20 percent of prisoners in the state to avoid further spread of COVID-19, writes the Times. The bill, which is touted to be the first of its kind in the United States, would release inmates who are within a year of completing their sentences due to pandemic concerns. This legislation comes as the U.S. coronavirus deaths surpass 150,000, the highest COVID-19 death toll of any country in the world, according to the Journal.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Chinese Communist Party “the central threat of our times,” writes Reuters.

The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from the C.E.O.s of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google on Wednesday, according to the Times. Lawmakers questioned the tech executives on a range of issues, from antitrust concerns to allegations of bias in content moderation decisions on platforms.

President Trump did not bring up intelligence of a Russian bounty program on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan when he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, reports the Times. In an interview published Wednesday, the president stated, “That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly, that’s an issue that many people said was fake news.”

In a tweet this morning, the president floated the prospect of delaying the November presidential election, writes the Post. His statement drew bipartisan criticism from lawmakers, who asserted that the election will be held on November 3, 2020, despite the pandemic. Legal experts noted that the president has no authority to change the date of the election— rather, that power lies with Congress.

China warned India against a “forced decoupling” of the countries’s interwoven economies today, according to Reuters. Officials from the two nuclear-armed countries have been engaging in regular talks to de-escalate tensions since the Himalayan border clash on June 15 that killed 20 Indian soldiers.

The U.S. economy suffered its worst quarterly contraction on record as the pandemic has ravaged businesses across the country, reports Politico. In a report published today, the Commerce Department reported a 32.9 percent drop in its initial estimate of second-quarter gross domestic product.

A Russian court sentenced former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed to nine years in jail today, writes Reuters. Reed was convicted of assaulting two police officers, a charge that he denies, in a trial that the U.S. has claimed lacks serious evidence.

The U.S. will remove 12,000 troops from Germany, according to the Times. This move fulfills the president’s desire to withdraw military support from Germany, a NATO nation he claims isn’t spending enough on their own defense.

Violence has surged in the Darfur region of Sudan, reports the Times. After ousting Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir last year, the bloody revolution brought some change to Sudan’s cities, but Darfur has since remained a hot conflict zone. Nomadic Arab militias in Darfur continue to massacre civilians while Sudan’s security forces are accused of negligence and complicity.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Samantha Fry summarized ongoing litigation against the federal government’s crackdown on protests in Portland, Oregon.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security featuring discussion on Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before Congress, a list of rising stars in the LGBTQ+ national security community and a sneak peak at John Brennan’s new memoir, among other things.

Zoe Bedell and John Major discussed proposals aimed at revising the immunity that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides tech platforms.

Elliot Setzer posted a livestream of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing featuring testimony from the C.E.O.s of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Hayley Evans analyzed the implications of the Schrems II decision for the future of data protection in Britain.

Elena Kagan shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring the substance of Attorney General Bill Barr’s testimony before the House, without the bull.

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