Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Wednesday, July 14, 2021, 2:23 PM

Newly unsealed court documents indicate that the Department of Justice requisitioned the records of three Washington Post reporters in an attempt to identify the source of information about conversations between the Trump campaign and the Russian ambassador, reports the New York Times. The three reporters had written articles on conversations between Jared Kushner and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, conversations between Jeff Sessions and Kislyak, and the Obama administration’s struggles with Russian election interference. The request, made a day before former Attorney General William Barr left office, also suggests the Justice Department may have felt that someone in Congress had communicated the details of Kislyak’s conversations with the press. 

Four Iranian intelligence agents allegedly plotted to kidnap Iranian American dissident journalist Masih Alinejad from her home in Brooklyn, according to the Washington Post. In an unsealed indictment, the Justice Department stated that the agents first attempted to lure Alinejad to a country where abducting her would be easier. When that plan failed, the group conspired to take her from her U.S. home back to Iran via a maritime evacuation. Although the indictment did not name her, Alinejad confirmed herself as the intended target on Twitter. She posted, “I am grateful to FBI for foiling the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry’s plot to kidnap me. This plot was orchestrated under Rouhani.” The four agents were charged in a federal court in Manhattan.

The United Arab Emirates officially opened an embassy in Tel Aviv, according to Deutsche Welle. The UAE is now the third majority Arab nation to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel. The embassy is housed in the same building as Israel’s stock exchange, suggesting the UAE’s desire to continue to improve economic relations. Two weeks ago Israel opened its own embassy in Abu Dhabi. Newly appointed Israeli president Isaac Herzog said the embassies are “an important milestone in our shared journey toward a future of peace, prosperity and security for the Middle East.”

The Taliban reportedly raised their flag over a border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the town of Spin Boldak, claiming control of it, writes the BBC. Videos and photos on social media show the flag flying over the border crossing and Taliban militants speaking to Pakistani border guards, though Afghan officials deny that the government has lost control of the post. The Spin Boldak border crossing links the Afghan city of Kandahar to Pakistani ports. Control of the crossing would allow the Taliban direct access to Pakistan and significant customs revenue. 

One man has died and more than 140 have been arrested or reported missing after protests across Cuba that erupted over the weekend, reports the BBC. Diubis Laurencio Tejeda died in a suburb of Havana during a confrontation between police and protestors. Cuba’s interior ministry said Tejeda was part of a group that attacked a government facility, but eyewitnesses reported that security forces attacked the protestors. The death comes after multiple days of protests that began in San Antonio de los Baños and have since spread throughout the country.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, proposed major economic reforms on Wednesday to combat climate change, reports the Wall Street Journal. The plan would impose sustainability requirements on households, vehicles and industry, in addition to importing levies based on greenhouse gas emissions involved in the production of a good. EU governments and the EU’s parliament will have to negotiate the details of the proposal before it can be approved and entered into law. 

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have reached an agreement in a standoff over crude output from OPEC and its allies, according to Al Jazeera. The group known as OPEC+ was split on the issue of allowing the UAE to produce an extra 2 million barrels per day to lower oil prices. Crude prices have recently risen to their highest levels in two and a half years as some economies’ relaxing coronavirus restrictions have led to increased demand for energy. Since the compromise between major OPEC producers was first reported, the global benchmark Brent crude fell by roughly $1 towards $75 per barrel.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Executive Editor Scott Anderson spoke with Robert Fatton, Jr., a professor at the University of Virginia, to discuss the implications of the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, the president of Haiti. 

Mary Brooks and Paul Rosenzweig explained the potential of prediction markets and how they can enhance decision making. 

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast discussing the Biden administration’s options for responding to Russian ransomware attacks; the Biden administration actions targeting anti-competitive big tech practices; former President Trump’s class action suits against Twitter, Facebook and Google; and more. 

Christiana Wayne announced this week’s Lawfare Live, during which Editor in Chief Benjamin Wittes will speak with Anderson about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the similarities to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. 

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the latest episode of the National Security Law Podcast, in which they discussed the end of Gen. Mark Martins’ tenure as chief prosecutor of military commissions, the al-Hela litigation and the debate over whether the Due Process Clause applies to Guantanamo detainees, and other topics. 

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