Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Thursday, January 14, 2021, 3:15 PM

The House impeached President Trump yesterday in a 232-197 vote, making him the first U.S. president to ever be impeached twice, reports the New York Times. Ten members of the Republican party broke party ranks to charge Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for instigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by repetitively and falsely claiming that the 2020 election was stolen in an attempt to overturn the legitimate results. Trump will now face a Senate trial that is unlikely to proceed until President-elect Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. If convicted in the Senate, Trump could be barred from ever holding office again.

Federal prosecutors say they plan to bring seditious conspiracy charges in their developing investigation into the pro-Trumb mob that attacked the Capitol, according to the Wall Street Journal. Violation of sedition laws in the U.S. is a rare and serious offense that specifically criminalizes conspiracy to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or prevent the execution of any U.S. law.” On Tuesday, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, said that he has directed prosecutors to “build sedition and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol.”

National Guard units have been instructed to prepare for the possibility that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) will be used by individuals conspiring to attack the Capitol during the week of the inauguration, writes Politico. Last week, D.C.-area law enforcement found IEDs planted at the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters. Ryan McCarhty, the secretary of the Army, has authorized members of the National Guard to carry lethal weapons as law enforcement has bolstered its forces to prepare for a heightened threat of violence in the nation’s capital in the days surrounding Inauguration Day. U.S. governors are also bracing for long-term danger to their state capitols from extremist groups in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 rioting, reports the Washington Post.

As the threat of political violence escalates, far-right extremists have migrated to private groups and encrypted messaging apps, making the severity of the threat increasingly difficult to assess, according to Politico. The shift comes as mainstream social media platforms, such as Facebook, have cracked down on content from white nationalist and extremist groups due to the violence at the Capitol—leading to a diffuse, decentralized and chaotic web of online chatter that has complicated law enforcement’s effort to monitor and track threats that are proliferating extremist channels.

The U.S. has indicted 14 leaders of the international criminal gang MS-13 on terrorism charges, reports Reuters. The individuals face charges including conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to terrorists, finance terrorism and commit acts of terrorism.

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has announced that the SolarWinds breach of sensitive Bureau of Labor Statistics information did not compromise the data, writes the Wall Street Journal. This means that the public can have confidence in the U.S. jobs report and other market information about the American economy released by the federal agency.

The Trump administration has added nine Chinese firms to a blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies, according to Reuters. The companies, which include plane manufacturer Comac and phone producer Xiamoi, will be subject to a new U.S. ban that prohibits American investors from owning shares of the blacklisted firms.

In Uganda, 18 million voters will cast ballots in a presidential election that has sparked the country’s worst political violence in decades, reports the Journal. Incumbent President Yoweri Musevini faces a challenge from Bob Wine, a 38-year-old musician who has been repeatedly beaten, arrested and harassed by Ugandan security forces. The race embodies a generational clash across Africa more broadly, as young voters are increasingly demanding change and improved economic opportunity. Though the results aren’t expected until Jan. 16, President Musevini has already declared victory.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi released a statement today alleging that there are “concrete indications of major violations of international law” at two refugee camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, according to Reuters.

Three top U.N. officials have called on the U.S. to revoke its decision to designate Yemen’s Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, warning that it could exacerbate the region’s humanitarian crisis, writes Reuters.

President-elect Joe Biden has selected current Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, a Trump appointee, to temporarily lead the Pentagon as the incoming administration waits for a Senate confirmation of retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as defense secretary, according to Politico.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes argued that while the bipartisan impeachment is an important and necessary step, there are many problems it does not solve.

Jen Patja Howell shared this week’s episode of Rational Security, the “So Not-Nice They Impeached Him Twice” edition.

Howell also shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring Jack Goldsmith’s interview with Brian Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University, about the issue of late impeachments, in which the Senate would not hold its trial until after Trump leaves office.

Bill Priestap and Holden Triplett discussed how nations are using espionage during the pandemic to collect information, engage in information warfare and exploit contact-tracing platforms.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast featuring an interview with Zach Dorfman about his work on U.S.-Chinese intelligence competition in the last decade and discussing the latest developments in cyber policy news.

Andi Wilson Thompson assessed the vulnerabilities equities process, arguing that the government has failed to deliver on its promises of greater transparency.

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared an episode of the National Security Law Podcast discussing the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Patrick McDonnell summarized the oral argument in the Supreme Court’s Collins v. Mnuchin, a case that may determine Congress’s ability to limit the president’s removal power.

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