Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Wednesday, July 28, 2021, 2:34 PM

The Justice Department decided that Republican Rep. Mo Brooks can be sued over his speech at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol, according to the Washington Post. In a court filing Tuesday, the department said that attempting to incite an attack on the Capitol does not fall within the official duties of an elected official and is not covered by protections for members of Congress and federal employees. Brooks has claimed he is immune to the lawsuit filed by fellow Rep. Eric Swalwell that accused Brooks, former President Trump and others of inciting the failed insurrection. The department also concluded that Brooks’s speech “was campaign activity, and it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections.”

North and South Korea reopened military and diplomatic communications after a 14-month hiatus, reports the New York Times. The decision to restore ties came through a series of letters between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The North cut off all communications with South Korea last June, but it now wants to improve relations “as soon as possible” as the country faces a deepening economic crisis. The leaders will reopen communications, including inter-Korean hotlines, on the anniversary of the truce that effectively ended the Korean War in 1953.

England announced that fully vaccinated visitors from the United States and Europe will be able to enter the country without needing to quarantine beginning on Aug. 2, reports the Washington Post. The decision will boost the country’s suffering tourism industry and, as Britain’s transportation minister tweeted, “reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK.” 

A report from the Federation of American Scientists says that satellite images from Xinjiang suggest that China is building a nuclear missile silo field, according to the BBC. The construction, which could hold about 110 underground silos for storing and launching missiles, is the second of its kind reported to have begun in the last two months in western China. These projects come after a 2020 Pentagon report said China was set to double its arsenal of nuclear warheads and as the U.S. and Russia prepare for arms control negotiations.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, met a Taliban delegation on Wednesday, indicating closer ties, reports Al Jazeera. Wang expressed that China supports the role of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s “peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction.” He also suggested the Taliban might assist China in quashing the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a group China claims is active in its western Xinjiang province and fears could gain a foothold in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s meeting with Chinese officials in Tianjin comes amid the Taliban’s territorial gains and its attempts to gain international recognition and legitimacy. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Hanoi for talks with his Vietnamese counterpart,  Gen. Phan Van Giang, writes the South China Morning Post. Discussions between the two on Thursday will reportedly touch on U.S. maritime support for Vietnam and potentially dispatching a third U.S. aircraft carrier to the country. Austin, who is visiting a former prison for American pilots during the Vietnam War, will also discuss the legacy of the Vietnam War and is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding that commits the United States to assisting Vietnam in recovering the bodies of soldiers killed during the conflict. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in India yesterday, where he is meeting with Indian officials to strengthen the U.S.-India relationship, according to the Associated Press. On Wednesday, Blinken and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar pledged to expand the multilateral security partnership between the two countries in an effort to strengthen their front against China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. They also discussed regional security issues, such as Afghanistan, and Blinken announced that the United States will give India $25 million to support the country’s coronavirus vaccination program.

An order signed by President Biden on Wednesday seeks to develop cybersecurity performance goals and public-private partnerships to strengthen infrastructure, reports the Associated Press. The order aims to improve both resiliency and coherence between disparate cybersecurity standards across sectors. The partnership began in April with the electric utilities sector and will expand to other industries this year. Wednesday’s order also instructs the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce to craft cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare Executive Editor Scott R. Anderson talks to Jonathan Schroden, director of the Countering Threats and Challenges Program at the nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, about the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Michel Paradis explained the Senate debate over reforming the military justice system to combat the prevelance of sexual assault in the military.

Christiana Wayne posted a livestream of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol’s first hearing, during which members heard testimony from Capitol and D.C. Metropolitan Police officers.

Ajay Sarma shared the Justice Department’s authorization of former Trump administration officials to testify before Congress, rejecting their claims of executive privilege. 

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