Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck, Tia Sewell
Wednesday, January 6, 2021, 2:38 PM

In anticipation of pro-Trump protests Wednesday in the capital, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested that the Pentagon deploy National Guard troops in Washington, writes the Washington Post. In response, Defense Department officials said that the troops deployed to the capital would not carry firearms or use armored helicopters or vehicles. The Pentagon also noted that there would be no backup from other states’ National Guard units.

Thousands of the president’s supporters are in Washington on Wednesday protesting Congress’ certification of President-elect Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, according to the Post. Trump spoke to the protesters, repeating his baseless claim that he won the November election. Protesters knocked down the barricades surrounding the Capitol and entered the Capitol building. The Capitol Police locked down the Capitol building and instructed those in other congressional buildings to evacuate.

The top prosecutor in Kenosha, Wis., has declined to bring charges against the police officer who shot and partially paralyzed Jacob Blake, a Black man, in August, reports the New York Times. The shooting sparked demonstrations nationwide and further fueled a summer of unrest as Americans turned to the streets to protest police brutality and racial injustice following the police killing of George Floyd. The Kenosha County district attorney said that a case against the officer would be difficult to prove, in part because Blake had admitted to holding a knife when the episode occurred.

Runoff elections for Georgia’s two Senate seats took place yesterday, with the New York Times calling a narrow victory for Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock over his incumbent competitor, Republican Kelly Loeffler. The other race between Jon Ossoff and incumbent Sen. David Perduewhich would determine party control of the Senateremains too early to call. As the Washington Post noted late Tuesday afternoon, thousands of ballots cast by Georgia’s overseas voters have not yet been counted due to delays with an overwhelmed Postal Service. Though a small fraction of the state’s 7.2 million registered voters, Georgia’s international voting bloc could be large enough to influence outcomes in dead heat races, according to election analysts.

Joe Biden will name Judge Merrick Garland to serve as his attorney general, according to Politico. Biden selected Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, over former Sen. Doug Jones and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who were also in the running to head the Justice Department. Lisa Monaco, who served as Homeland Security Adviser to President Obama, will be deputy attorney general.

More Americans were hospitalized due to COVID-19 on Wednesday than on any other day since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Reuters. Wednesday also marked the second highest number of deaths due to the coronavirus on a single day in the United States.

San Diego officials have reported 28 confirmed and four suspected cases of a new variant of the coronavirus that spread swiftly across England, reports the Los Angeles Times. Scientists believe the variant may be more contagious than the dominant strain but that those infected with it do not experience more severe illness.

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is expediting a plan to begin administering coronavirus vaccines in pharmacies, according to Politico. Almost 40,000 pharmacies are involved in the government’s program, and several thousand will begin receiving doses in two weeks. This announcement comes after the federal government failed to reach its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of the year.

Thirteen GOP senators have signaled that they will oppose certification of President-elect Biden’s victory in the 2020 U.S. election, set to occur on the Senate floor today, writes Politico. The effort to overturn Trump’s Electoral College loss has bitterly divided the caucus, with some Republican lawmakers condemning the objectors’ maneuver. Yesterday on Lawfare, Keith Whittington argued that although these efforts to overturn the election will ultimately prove futile, they still present a threat to democratic norms in the country.

President Trump has appointed Bobby Christine, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, to serve as the new acting attorney in Atlanta, reports the Hill. The decision follows the abrupt resignation of U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak on Monday. Pak, who was appointed by Trump, held the position for three years and stated his departure was due to “unforeseen circumstances” without providing further detail.

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) said Wednesday that it will delist three Chinese telecommunications firms—China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp. and China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd.—after it reversed its decision to delist the companies earlier this week, reports the Wall Street Journal. The NYSE said trading of the shares on the exchange will be suspended on Monday at 4 a.m. ET. After the exchange reversed its decision to delist the firms on Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin contacted NYSE President Stacey Cuningham to contest the decision.

President Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order prohibiting transactions with eight Chinese software apps, including Tencent QQ and Ant Group’s Alipay, according to Reuters. President-elect Joe Biden has the authority to revoke the directive when he takes office later this month, though the incoming administration has not indicated whether it will do so. In response to the ban, China’s commerce ministry released a statement accusing the U.S. of “unreasonable suppression” of Chinese apps that goes against consumers’ interests.

Hong Kong police have arrested 53 former lawmakers and pro-democracy advocates, marking the largest crackdown on dissent since Beijing imposed its new national security law on the territory last June, according to the Associated Press.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been denied bail by a London court, reports France 24. Assange will remain in British custody as the U.S. Justice Department challenges a U.K. court decision that blocked Assange’s extradition to the United States.

The European Medicines Agency, which serves as the EU’s drug regulator, has approved the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, writes the Times.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Keith E. Whittington argued that if Republican legislators object to the counting of electoral votes for Biden today, they will be assisting Trump’s brazen effort to steal an American election—and while that attempt may be in vain, it will still prove destructive to U.S. democratic norms.

Peter Margulies analyzed a Dec. 31 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision to uphold President Trump’s “uninsured ban” which bars the entry of immigrants without approved health insurance.

Alvaro Marañon shared a joint statement from the U.S. Intelligence Community on the “likely Russian” role in the SolarWinds breach.

Bryce Klehm announced this week’s Lawfare Live, set to take place on Friday at 2 p.m., titled “Lessons from the 2020 Election with Nate Persily and Charles Stewart.” Persily and Stewart will join Benjamin Wittes to answer live questions from the audience about the 2020 election.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast covering the impact of Russian disinformation, the SolarWinds hack and the story of a Zoom executive who used pretextual violations of terms of service to remove anti-Chinese government speech, among other topics.

Mailyn Fidler examined a California state court’s final decision regulating government agency use of “stingrays,” or devices that enable a user to track cell phones and have prompted outcry about serious privacy risks when used by law enforcement.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring Jack Goldsmith’s interview with Margaret Love, the U.S. pardon attorney in the Justice Department from 1990 to 1997, about Trump’s circumvention of the traditional legal pardon process.

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