Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck
Wednesday, May 12, 2021, 2:41 PM

For the third consecutive day, the Israeli military and Gaza militants—most prominently Hamas—traded rocket attacks, reportedly resulting in the deaths of 48 Gazans, including 14 children, and six Israelis, including one teenage girl, reports the Washington Post. In response to Israeli airstrikes that had destroyed a 13-story building and other high-rises, Hamas sent more than 1,000 rockets toward Tel Aviv and surrounding areas. The Israeli military said the 13-story building contained Hamas intelligence offices and a rocket research and development component. The Israeli military said on Facebook in a message to Gaza residents that this violence is the result of “terror organizations … plac[ing] you in the line of fire,” and that residents of Gaza should “[s]tay away from the places where … [terror organizations] operate” and keep themselves and their families safe. Large-scale Palestinian protests have occurred in Arab towns across Israel, demonstrating against what they claim to be anti-Arab discrimination by the Israeli government. 

House Democrats and the White House have reached a tentative agreement that would allow Don McGahn, former White House counsel under President Trump, to testify before Congress about Trump’s attempt to obstruct the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, reports the New York Times. In August, the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia rejected the Justice Department’s argument that McGahn was immune from being required to testify regarding his work as White House counsel. The Justice Department then sought to prove that Congress had no “cause of action” that allowed it to sue the executive branch. This deal would resolve the subpoena dispute unless Trump—who is not a party in this case—tries to block McGahn’s testimony by invoking executive privilege. It is not settled in the law whether a former president can assert executive privilege when the current president does not do so. 

House Republicans removed Rep. Liz Cheney from her position as the chamber’s third-ranking Republican leader on Wednesday in response to her consistent public criticism of former President Trump for his baseless allegations of election fraud, including those that appear to have contributed to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, reports the Associated Press. 

District Court Judge Peter Cahill ruled Tuesday that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd included aggravating factors that may lead to a longer sentence for Chauvin, writes the Hill. Cahill found that Chauvin abused his power as an officer and demonstrated “particular cruelty” by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

A white man, Robert Aaron Long, who allegedly killed eight people—including six Asian women—in shootings on March 16 at three spas in the Atlanta area was indicted by two grand juries on Tuesday, reports the Associated Press. The Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, issued a filing providing notice that she will seek a sentence enhancement and the death penalty against Long on the basis of hate crime charges.   

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the National Rifle Association’s (NRA’s) attempt to petition for bankruptcy protection, ruling that the group had filed the case in bad faith to repel a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, according to the Washington Post. This decision comes after James filed an expansive civil suit against the organization in August, alleging fraud among top NRA officials. Judge Harlin Hale described the bankruptcy filing “as an effort to gain an unfair litigation advantage … [and] avoid a regulatory scheme.” 

Hackers who appear to have breached the D.C. police department’s computer network have released more personnel files that include sensitive information about officers, writes the Post. The criminal group, known as Babuk, threatened to publish information concerning secret informants, criminal investigations and gang members if the District refuses to provide ransom. D.C. officials have confirmed that the personnel files the group previously released were authentic, and the officials alerted over 3,600 officers that their personal information had been compromised. 

Protesters in Myanmar demonstrated across the country on Tuesday to condemn the country’s military rulers who overthrew the elected government on Feb. 1, reports Reuters. Since the military coup, much of the Myanmar population has staged an organized resistance campaign to the junta, and the international community has denounced the new rulers for human rights violations. According to the Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, the military’s security forces have killed 781 people since taking control in February, and 3,843 people are currently being detained. 

The Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence wing is establishing a team dedicated to domestic terrorism, according to Politico. The department is also refocusing another office to increase attention to domestic extremism. These moves come after the department released its first National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin concerning domestic terrorism, and the department under the Biden administration launched an internal investigation examining domestic extremism within the department. 

Senate Republicans on Tuesday staunchly resisted Democrats’s legislation that would overhaul federal election laws, writes the Associated Press. The Senate Rules Committee split 9-9 on whether to move the bill forward to the full Senate in its present form. This Democratic effort comes as Republicans seek to restrict new voting methods in Republican and battleground states across the country. Due to the Senate’s filibuster rules, there is no clear path forward for the legislation in the Senate—which is deadlocked 50-50. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes’s discussion with David Ignatius of the Washington Post and Jack Goldsmith, Lawfare co-founder and professor of law at Harvard Law school, about former Devin Nunes staffer and member of the Trump administration Kash Patel. The conversation covered Patel’s activities near the end of the Trump administration and what they reveal about the operation of the executive branch under Trump.

Paul Rosenzweig questioned the commonly held belief that 85 percent of U.S. infrastructure is owned by the private sector. 

Stewart Baker shared the latest edition of the Cyberlaw Podcast covering artificial intelligence hacking, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware, stalking concerns about Apple’s new AirTags and the Russian proposal concerning U.N. cybercrime.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk in which he spoke with Kevin Xu, the founder of the Interconnected newsletter. They discussed the politics related to Tesla in China, the future of the semiconductor industry and open source’s role in American industrial policy.

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