Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Tuesday, July 27, 2021, 1:36 PM

The House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection held its first hearing on Tuesday, reports NPR. The committee heard the testimony of Pfc. Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell from the U.S. Capitol Police and Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, officers in the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. The four officers, who had responded to rioting and the breach of the Capitol, recounted their experiences defending the building and legislators from a violent mob on Jan. 6. Members of the panel emphasized the gravity of the attack and the violence experienced by responding officers and expressed their commitment to a thorough investigation of the events of Jan. 6. 

A Hong Kong court convicted pro-democracy protestor Tong Ying-kit of terrorism in its first trial under the new Chinese national security law, according to the New York Times. Tong was arrested on July 1 after he collided with police officers while riding a motorcycle through a Hong Kong neighborhood and flying a protest banner. Under the law, Tong, who has already been denied bail and a jury trial, could be sentenced to life in prison. The court is expected to hand down a sentence within weeks. The trial is considered a test of the new law’s impact on the city’s traditionally independent courts, signaling what is to come for the more than 60 people awaiting trial on charges brought under the law.

Thomas Barrack, an investor and a former advisor of Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from his alleged lobbying on the behalf of the government of the United Arab Emirates, reports the Washington Post. Barrack is also charged with lying to the FBI. The long-time associate of the former president, along with a co-defendant, Matthew Grimes, is believed to have influenced Trump’s 2016 campaign and his policies once in the White House to benefit the UAE. 

In a report, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of conduct tantamount to war crimes after investigating airstrikes that killed 62 Palestinian civilians during an 11-day conflict with Hamas in Gaza in May, writes the Associated Press. The human rights watchdog said it would issue another report with a larger focus on the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian actors in August. Highlighting that “An attack that is not directed at a specific military objective is unlawful,” Human Rights Watch contended that Israeli forces had not issued warnings to evacuate from airstrike sites and had not targeted military objectives. The report on Israeli conduct during the conflict with Hamas also suggests American security assistance to Israel should be contingent on compliance with human rights law and investigations into its past abuses.

The Centers for Disease Control plans to adjust its mask recommendations for people vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the New York Times. In a reversal of its previous policy announced in May, the CDC is expected to advise vaccinated people to again wear masks indoors in certain parts of the country. The change comes as breakthrough infections of the highly transmissible Delta variant have been reported among fully immunized people, though vaccines remain effective against the worst symptoms of the infection. Last week the CDC had said it had no plans to change its guidance unless there was a significant change in the science. Federal officials met Sunday night to review new evidence, maybe prompting the change.

Tokyo reported a record 2,848 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, days after the Olympics began in the city, according to the Associated Press. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged residents to avoid nonessential outings but insisted there was no need to consider suspending the games. Japan’s infection rates are still lower than many other countries, including the United States and United Kingdom. Suga’s government has been harshly criticized for its prioritization of the Olympics. His approval ratings have fallen to 30 percent in recent media surveys.

Ennahda, Tunisia’s largest political party, called for dialogue to resolve the political crisis in the country, reports Al Jazeera. In a statement, the Islamist party called President Saied’s suspension of parliament and ousting of the prime minister “unconstitutional,” but the party called on Saied to reverse the measures and return stability. The fired ​​Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said he would relinquish power to whomever Saied chooses for his position “to avoid any further blockage at a time when the country needs to join forces to get out of this crisis situation on all levels.”

Iranian officials announced the arrests of alleged Israeli Mossad agents that they claim were planning on inciting an insurrection in the country, reports Haaretz. The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence reportedly detained the agents near the country’s western border. Israel has not yet responded to Iran’s claims. The Iranian government has previously accused rival nations such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States of attempting to foment instability within the country. Announcement of the arrests comes amid weeks of protests that began over water shortages in southwestern Iran which have diffused throughout the country and sparked clashes between demonstrators and authorities. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker discuss their new book, “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year.”

Nicol Turner Lee shared an episode of TechTank that covers privacy, equity and access of coronavirus vaccines.

Bryce Klehm posted Attorney General Merrick Garland’s new guidelines on the Department of Justice’s communications with the White House.

Lindsey Barrett, Laura Moy, Paul Ohm and Ashkan Soltani considered the effects of the Federal Trade Commission’s outdated conflict-of-interest rules.

Genevieve Lakier discussed the constitutional questions arising from informal government coercion.

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