Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck
Tuesday, January 5, 2021, 3:32 PM

Approximately 10 senators joined Republican representatives on a phone call Monday to discuss plans to contest the Electoral College’s votes for President-elect Joe Biden, reports Politico. The legislators are primarily focused on objecting to the votes in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania—though House members are also advocating for objections in Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada.

At a Monday rally held to support Republican candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in their Senate runoff elections Tuesday, President Trump repeated his baseless allegations of election fraud and chastised Republicans who have not supported his unfounded attempt to overturn Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Politico reports that Trump also called on Vice President Mike Pence to “come through for us,” referring to Pence’s role in Congress’ certification of the Electoral College votes.

U.S. health officials said Monday that over two-thirds of the 15 million coronavirus vaccines distributed to states have not been administered, according to Reuters. Governors Andrew Cuomo and Ron Desantis of New York and Florida, respectively, said that hospitals in their states that dispense vaccines more quickly would receive more doses.

Leading health officials also said that the U.S. does not plan to delay providing the second dose of the vaccine in order to inoculate more individuals with the first dose, reports the Washington Post. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday that there is a lack of “data on what happens if you delay the second dose by three months or four months or two months.”

Atlanta’s top federal prosecutor, Byung J. Pak, resigned Monday after an audio recording in which the president called Pak a “never-Trumper” was made public on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. Pak, a Trump appointee, was sworn in as a U.S. attorney in October 2017 after serving as a Republican state legislator from 2011 to 2017. During the phone call in which Trump said that Pak did not support him, the president suggested that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger might find a sufficient number of votes to overturn the election.

The Afghan government and the Taliban resumed peace talks in Doha on Tuesday, reports the Wall Street Journal. The discussions come amid the U.S. troop drawdown and rising tensions between the two sides as they both claim the other has recently escalated its attacks. Jake Sullivan, President-elect Biden’s nominee for national security adviser, said Sunday that the incoming administration would work to support peace between Kabul and the Taliban.

Saudi Arabia will open its airspace and borders to Qatar after Riyadh led several countries—including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—to cut off Doha three and a half years ago, writes France24. This resumption of diplomatic relations comes after the Trump administration pushed for a resolution between Doha and the Gulf countries to further isolate Iran—on which Doha relied during the embargo.

In light of increasingly aggressive Russian foreign policy, Sweden is bolstering its military defenses and securing its alliance with the U.S., writes the Wall Street Journal. After the Russian military conducted amphibious landings this summer, Sweden quickly sent troops to Gotland island—where the Swedes believe a potential Russian invasion of the country would begin. In December, the Swedish parliament authorized the largest increase in military spending in 70 years.

China sentenced a prominent state lender, Lai Xiaomin, to death on Tuesday, reports the New York Times. A Chinese court found Xiaomin guilty of receiving approximately $277 million in bribes between 2008 and 2018. This sentence is the latest move in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, which he has pursued since taking power in 2012. China has executed individuals for business-related crimes in the past but less often recently.

Ten individuals suspected to be linked to the 2016 bombings in Brussels will face a jury trial in the second half of 2022, according to France24. The attacks, claimed by the Islamic State, physically and mentally harmed approximately 900 individuals.

Ethiopian law enforcement on Tuesday released a Reuters cameraman, Kumerra Gemechu, after detaining him for 12 days without issuing charges, writes Reuters. Although Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has released dozens of journalists from detention and removed bans from over 250 media outlets, activist groups contend that violence between rebel leaders and the military has led the government to curtail press freedoms.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring a conversation with Dr. Geoffrey Gersh, a professor of International Studies at the College of International Security Affairs (CISA) at the National Defense University, and Lawfare’s Alexander Vindman. They discussed the interests of Russia, China and India in their naval competition cooperation and the consequences of the great power competition for the United States.

Jacob Schulz analyzed Substack’s content moderation policies and what they mean for platforms’ moderation more broadly.

Jordan Schneider shared a discussion on ChinaTalk with Michael Brown, the head of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, covering foreign investment and industrial spying and coordination with allies on semiconductors, among other topics.

Michael Kugelman and Adam Weinstein discussed the implications of Pakistan’s changing domestic politics.

Schneider also shared an episode of ChinaTalk on changes in the U.S. military and U.S.-China geopolitical relations. Schneider spoke with Richard Danzig, a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins APL and former secretary of the Navy, about the effects of potential military escalation with China on U.S. trade policy and the challenges facing regulators in tech industries.

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