Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Anna Salvatore, Tia Sewell
Thursday, October 29, 2020, 1:41 PM

Attorney General Bill Barr tried to squash the Justice Department’s investigation into a state-owned Turkish bank accused of funneling money to Iran. According to a New York Times report, the president’s political appointees at the department slowed down the investigation after Turkish President Reccip Erdogan repeatedly asked President Trump to stop probing the bank. Records obtained by the Times show an extensive lobbying campaign by Turkey, which included meetings with the vice president’s office and the president’s personal lawyers. After meeting with several lobbyists, including Erdogan’s son-in-law, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reduce fines levied on the bank.

The Supreme Court held last night that election officials in Pennsylvania and North Carolina can count absentee ballots after Election Day. In the North Carolina case, the Times reports that Justices Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch wrote that they would have granted the Trump campaign’s request to forbid lower courts from extending the deadline.

Russian-speaking cybercriminals launched a coordinated ransomware attack against U.S. hospitals, writes the Post. Beginning on Monday, six hospitals across the country were hit by the Ryuk ransomware, which encrypts data on computer systems. “The events unfolding right now have the potential to cause loss of life, potentially across multiple hospitals,” said Charlea Carmakal, chief technology officer for the cybersecurity firm Mandiant.

Federal agents arrested two men today linked to a white supremacist group in Michigan, writes the Detroit News. The arrests are part of a broader crackdown on extremism in the state, including federal indictments in connection to a thwarted plot earlier this fall to kidnap and overthrow Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

As election officials nationwide continue to grapple with a record number of mail-in ballots and other unique challenges imposed by the pandemic, they are also spending hours online battling a flood of election-related online misinformation according to the Times.

A man knifed three people to death in a church in Nice, France, writes Deutsche Welle. President Emmanuel Macron visited the city shortly afterwards, pledging to double the number of French soldiers on domestic anti-terrorism duty. Today’s attack came after a Chechen refugee beheaded a French teacher earlier this month for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in his classroom.

The United Kingdom’s Labour Party suspended Jeremy Corbyn for calling a human rights group’s report on anti-semitism within Labour “dramatically overstated.” According to the BBC, Labour has faced accusations of anti-semitism since Corbyn served as leader in 2016.

Facebook charged presidential candidate Joe Biden a higher price than it charged incumbent President Donald Trump for campaign ads on its platform, according to the Markup. The Markup analyzed every known Trump and Biden ad on Facebook purchased between July 1, 2020 and Oct. 13, 2020 and found that on average, Biden has paid nearly $2.50 more per 1,000 impressions than Trump.

After a nearly two-year investigation, the Democratic majority staff of the House Judiciary Committee released a report today detailing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. According to the Washington Post., committee Democrats found that the White House secretly planned family separations at the southern border as a tactic designed to deter migrants from seeking asylum in the United States.

In Jakarta today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Indonesians to take a firm stance against China’s detention of mostly Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, according to the Wall Street Journal. The address was one of the Trump administration’s most direct attempts yet to rally Indonesian opposition to China’s policies targeting the Uighur minority. The government of Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, has so far been wary of criticizing Beijing.

ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has unveiled its first consumer hardware product, reports TechCrunch. The product, called the Dali smart lamp, features a display, camera and built-in digital assistant and was designed to help school children learn remotely.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Lester Munson shared an episode of the Fault Lines podcast featuring an interview with Ambassador Atul Keshap, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Nicol Turner Lee and Darrell West released an episode of the TechTank podcast entitled “How Can We Cope with Zoom Fatigue.”

Rohini Kurup shared the Justice Department’s charges against eight individuals with conspiring as agents of the Chinese government to try to force Chinese dissidents living in the United States to return to China to face trial.

Conner Clerkin and Lane Corrigan reviewed ongoing litigation about mail-in ballot deadlines.

Corrigan, Christopher Meyer and Alexander Ross Perry also described voters’ lawsuits to expand their ballot delivery options.

Stewart Baker released an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast entitled “Digital Dunkirk.” Baker interviews Rob Knake, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, about his recent report on digital trade.

Brandon Willmore, Amy Kapczynski and John Langford explored whether the president can order the Food and Drug Administration to approve a coronavirus treatment for political reasons.

Emerson Brooking wondered about the future of foreign influence operations after 2020.

Kelsey Landau suggested how the United States can address the problem of anonymously owned shell companies.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of The Lawfare Podcast featuring a conversation between Jacob Schulz, China Talk’s Jordan Schneider and University of Texas Austin’s Sheena Greitens about how the U.S. can push back on Chinese government atrocities in the Xinjiang province.

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