Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Anna Salvatore
Thursday, October 8, 2020, 1:14 PM

The Justice Department may investigate allegations of voter fraud in the coming weeks, reports the New York Times. For decades, the department has forbidden itself from conducting voting fraud inquiries during campaigns to avoid the appearance of political interference. But in a memo written last week, a Justice Department lawyer claimed “an exception” to the rule for possible electoral fraud, which may include prosecuting government employees like postal workers for misconduct. Some legal analysts worry the new guidelines could feed into President Trump’s exaggerated claims of voter fraud. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance warns that the department can now “build a narrative, despite the evidence, of fraud in mail-in voting so Trump can challenge the election results if he loses.”

The Justice Department also acknowledged yesterday that FBI agents changed dates on documents that were given to Michael Flynn’s defense attorneys and filed as evidence, according to the Washington Post. “The government has learned that, during the review of the Strzok notes, FBI agents assigned to the EDMO [U.S. Attorney Jensen] review placed a single yellow sticky note on each page of the Strzok notes with estimated dates (the notes themselves are undated),” the department said, claiming that the notes were inadvertently not removed when documents were scanned.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced yesterday that he has released approximately 1,000 pages of documents to the Justice Department for U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the original Trump-Russia probe. Ratcliffe said that he will consider declassifying more information, writes the Wall Street Journal, even though analysts like former CIA Director John Brennan have called Ratcliffe’s disclosures an irresponsible politicization of intelligence.

The FBI has thwarted a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and violently overthrow the state government, according to the Detroit News. An affidavit filed by the FBI today reveals a conspiracy by at least six people to “[create] a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights” and attack governments which they believed were contravening the Constitution. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel will announce criminal charges at 1:00 p.m. today.

Facebook will not run political advertisements in the U.S. during the week after the November election, writes CBS News. The company explained in a blog post that it will also “remove calls for people to engage in poll watching when those calls use militarized language or suggest that the goal is to intimidate, exert control, or display power over election officials or voters.” The policy change comes after President Trump exhorted his followers on Twitter to join an “army” of poll-watchers.

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to block an order that would mandate that it continue counting for the 2020 census, reports NPR. Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall argued that field operations must cease so that the Census Bureau can send statutorily mandated results to the president by Dec. 31. Hours earlier, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had rejected the administration’s attempt to end the census count on the grounds that missing the December deadline “would not likely invalidate” the final census numbers.

President Trump required doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to sign nondisclosure agreements last year, reports NBC News, and at least two doctors who refused were not permitted to treat the president. It is still unclear why President Trump visited Walter Reed last November, and according to NBC, anyone giving medical services to the president is already forbidden from disclosing personal health information without consent under federal law.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell released an episode of Rational Security entitled “The Don’t Let it Dominate You Edition.” Benjamin Wittes sat down with a group of experts to discuss the latest coronavirus news and the revelation that Justice Department officials were a “driving force” behind the family separation policy at the border.

Abby Lemert and Eleanor Runde provided a round-up of news on U.S.-China technology policy.

Rohini Kurup shared the Department of Homeland Security’s recent threat assessment, which warned of growing white supremacy and Russian disinformation threats.

Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes argued that the vice presidential debate should be cancelled amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

Jacob Schulz shared the Justice Departments’s indictment of two Islamic State detainees for alleged hostage-taking and executions in Syria.

Bobby Chesney announced a call for nominations for the 2020 Mike Lewis Prize for National Security Scholarship.

Justin Sherman explained that the Federal Communications Commission is becoming more transparent in screening of foreign telecom services for security risks.

Jen Patja Howell released an episode of The Lawfare Podcast featuring a conversation between Wittes and Scott Anderson about how the presidential election results can be challenged under state laws.

Brain Greer asserted that the Director of National Intelligence shared Russian disinformation as if it were verified intelligence.

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