Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck
Tuesday, May 18, 2021, 1:11 PM

After speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Biden said for the first time on Monday that he supports a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, while maintaining that Israel has the right to defend itself, writes the New York Times. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that the Biden administration was “working intensively behind the scenes to try to bring an end to the conflict.” Israeli leaders have said that they are not in a rush to end the fighting and that the airstrikes primarily targeting Hamas’s tunnel network will continue until Hamas stops launching large volleys of rockets into Israel. Israeli intelligence officials say the tunnel network is used to shelter Hamas commanders and fighters in Gaza and to transport weapons and Hamas combatants. Hamas has fired approximately 3,350 rockets since May 10 and has killed at least one soldier and nine civilians in Israel—including two children. According to Palestinian health officials, at least 212 Palestinians—including 61 children—have been killed in Gaza in the past eight days. Authorities in Gaza say that over 600 homes or businesses have been destroyed and over 6,400 have been damaged. While unrest among Palestinians and Arab Israelis has lulled in the last few days, protests have been called for on Tuesday afternoon to demonstrate against Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza and other policies that the protesters claim harm Palestinians. These demonstrations are supported by Hamas and the Fatah—the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority that controls parts of the West Bank.  

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said on Tuesday that he opposes the creation of a bipartisan commission specifically focused on investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, reports the Associated Press. McCarthy proposes any commission related to domestic riots examine other groups as well, like those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement that protested police violence following the murder of George Floyd. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee who wrote the proposal for the Jan. 6 commission rejected the proposal for a broader investigation. McCarthy’s opposition will likely diminish House Republican support for the insurrection-focused panel and may have a similar effect in the Senate ahead of this week’s vote on the commission. 

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden released their tax returns on Monday, resuming compliance with the well-established norm of voluntary disclosure that was broken by former President Trump, writes the Wall Street Journal. The Bidens’ returns show that the couple made $607,336 in adjusted gross income in 2020. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, “We will continue to release the president’s tax returns, as should be expected by every president of the United States.” Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, also disclosed their tax returns.

North Carolina prosecutors said Tuesday that the state’s sheriff’s deputies were justified in fatally shooting Andrew Brown, a Black man, in the course of an attempted arrest on April 21, reports NBC News. The district attorney says officers only fired after Brown had twice hit the deputies with his vehicle, but Brown’s family’s lawyers say the video of the incident does not match law enforcement officials’ description of the shooting. The body camera footage showing the incident has not yet been publicly released. Unlike many other states, North Carolina does not classify such law enforcement footage as a public record—requiring a judge’s directive to permit such videos to be released to the public. 

The predominantly Republican Maricopa County Board of Supervisors condemned the county’s ongoing audit of the 2020 election on Monday, reports the Washington Post. The board asked the Republican state senate to stop the recount—which is approximately one-fourth complete. 

The Council of the European Union extended a procedure on Monday that allows it to impose travel bans and asset freezes on foreign hackers who target the EU and its member states, writes Politico. Most recently in October 2020, the EU sanctioned two Russian intelligence officers and a unit of the Russian GRU military intelligence agency over their connection to the 2015 hacking of the German parliament. 

A new report produced by the world’s top energy agency says that in order to reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050—which scientists say is likely necessary to prevent irreversible damage to the Earth—every country would need to significantly ramp up its transition away from fossil fuels, reports the New York Times. Among other developments, the International Energy Agency’s report says that by 2025, nations would need to begin prohibiting the sale of new oil and gas furnaces to heat buildings and use electric heat pumps instead. It also says that by 2040, all coal-fired power plants around the world would need to be closed or furnished with carbon capture technology. 

As Taiwan experiences its most severe coronavirus outbreak of the pandemic, authorities are turning away residents wanting to get vaccinated due to a significant supply shortage, writes the Washington Post. In late March when the coronavirus caseload remained low, the lack of residents requesting vaccines led Taiwan officials to open vaccine access to the general public for a fee. As demand surges, authorities are now working to ration 300,000 vaccine doses for the country’s population of 24 million. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes considered the significance of the recent agreement over the testimony of former White House Counsel Don McGahn. 

Jen Patja Howell shared the final episode of Lawfare’s “After Trump” podcast series. This edition explored how the U.S. should and can repair the harm done to the country by the Trump presidency. 

Darrell West shared the latest episode of TechTank, featuring West’s conversation with Jurecic, senior editor at Lawfare and a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, about the Facebook Oversight Board’s decision concerning former President Trump’s account on the platform. 

Tamara Wittes argued that the current political crisis and military conflict in Israel and Gaza is grounded in deeply rooted social division and years of defective governance.

Natan Sachs discussed the national and religious symbols brought to the fore by the current Israel-Palestine conflict and what they mean for the future of the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel. 

Bryce Klehm shared the next edition of Lawfare Live, which will take place on Friday, May 21, at 1 p.m. Robert Chesney, Lawfare founding editor and James A. Baker III Chair at the University of Texas School of Law, and Trey Herr, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative under the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, will join Lawfare’s editor in chief Benjamin Wittes for a discussion of their recent Lawfare post detailing Biden’s new executive order on cybersecurity. 

Rohini Kurup shared the FBI and Department of Homeland Security joint report that includes an intelligence assessment and data concerning domestic terrorism. 

Hayley Evans examined the purpose and implications of the U.K.’s labeling of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division as a terrorist organization. 

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