Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Wednesday, April 28, 2021, 2:02 PM

Federal investigators executed a search warrant at Rudy Giuliani’s Manhattan apartment earlier today, according to the New York Times. The warrant marks an escalation in federal prosecutors’ ongoing investigation into whether Giuliani illegally broke lobbying laws in his dealings with Ukraine as President Trump’s personal lawyer. During the Trump administration, senior political appointees at the Justice Department repeatedly sought to block prosecutors' attempts to secure a search warrant for Guiliani’s phones—an objection that the department lifted after Merrick Garland assumed his post as attorney general. A source told the Times today that the investigators seized Giuliani’s electronic devices.

Yesterday, the FBI announced that it has opened a civil-rights investigation into the police killing of Andrew Brown, a Black man, in North Carolina last week, writes the Wall Street Journal. Autopsy results show that Brown was shot five times while sitting in a car during an encounter with Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office deputies on April 21. The deputies were reportedly serving drug-related search and arrest warrants.

President Biden is expected to begin naming his selections for high-level diplomatic postings as soon as this week, reports the Washington Post. The list of potential ambassador picks is full of friends, donors and aides from Biden’s political circle including: Cindy McCain for envoy to the World Food Program, Rahm Emanuel for ambassador to Japan, David Cohen for ambassador to Canada and Denise Bauer for ambassador to France.

The State Department has ordered all staff at the U.S. embassy in Kabul to leave Afghanistan unless their jobs require them to be physically located in the country, according to AP News. The department also stated that American citizens should not travel to Afghanistan and those currently in the country and looking to depart “should leave as soon as possible on available commercial flights.” The top U.S. diplomat in Kabul stated that the order was issued “due to increasing violence and threat reports.” Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who heads U.S. Central Command, said that the U.S. will keep a functioning embassy in Kabul with a “very, very minimal military presence there—that which is strictly necessary to defend the embassy.”

The Senate confirmed Colin Kahl as the Pentagon’s policy chief yesterday in a party-line vote, reports the Post. Kahl served as Biden’s national security adviser during the Obama administration. His confirmation has been drawn out amid Republican objections concerning his past tweets, which have criticized the GOP.

Chinese tech giant Huawei reported a second straight quarterly drop in revenue as U.S. sanctions tightened over the past year, writes the Wall Street Journal. U.S. policymakers consider Huawei, the largest telecom equipment producer in the world, to be a security threat due to concerns that Beijing could access the company’s technology for espionage purposes.

India reported 360,960 new coronavirus infections today, a new global record, according to CNBC. India’s crisis continues to deepen as the country’s official COVID-19 death toll surpassed 200,000 fatalities today. The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern that certain variants of the virus that are known to be circulating in India could be collectively responsible for the country’s unprecedented surge. 

The U.S. is moving to shape a second phase of the WHO-led investigation into the origins of COVID-19, reports the Journal. Experts across federal agencies are planning to submit recommendations to the WHO in the coming days. The U.S. is expected to recommend a review of medical records of researchers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology and ask that international scientists be granted access to pre-2020 strains of the virus.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Cynthia Parmley and Pete Petrozo discussed how Russia’s move to illegally close portions of the Black Sea to all foreign warships and state vessels and explained how the restriction fits into the current context of the Kremlin’s escalating efforts to destabilize Ukraine.

Alexandra Koch and Tia Sewell catalogued the Biden administration’s first U.N. Security Council presidency, which occurred during the month of March.

Bryce Klehm announced this week’s Lawfare Live, during which members of the Lawfare team will discuss the Biden administration’s first 100 days.

Stewart Baker shared this week’s edition of the Cyberlaw Podcast, entitled “The Cybersecurity Benefits of Desk Drawers.”

David Priess announced that Lawfare is seeking applications for a managing editor.

Sewell shared a Nov. 18, 2020 ruling issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that granted the U.S. government’s request for approval to continue collecting information on non-U.S. persons in order to acquire foreign intelligence information.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring David Priess’s interview with New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz and retired 28-year CIA veteran John Sipher on Russia’s military intelligence GRU Unit 29155.

Sewell posted a livestream of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing on Afghanistan policy, featuring testimony from Zalmay Khalilzad.

Sewell also posted a livestream of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law’s hearing on how social media platforms’ design choices shape American discourse. 

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