Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Friday, July 30, 2021, 3:32 PM

Notes taken by a former Justice Department official reveal President Trump repeatedly pressed department officials to declare the 2020 presidential election corrupt, reports the Washington Post. The notes, released to Congress this week, show Rosen pushing back on the requests, recording him saying the department “can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election.” The president urged Rosen to “just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.” 

An internal presentation circulated at the Centers for Disease Control suggests that the Delta variant of coronavirus is as contagious as chickenpox, according to the New York Times. The report said the immediate next step for the CDC is to “acknowledge the war has changed” in regards to the threat of the virus. The agency is expected to publish more data on the variant today. A federal agent who has seen the report said, “The CDC is very concerned with the data coming in that Delta is a very serious threat that requires action now.”

At least 81 Afghan troops died during a 90-day Taliban offensive ending on June 30 that included more than two dozen insider attacks, reports the Washington Post. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported the casualties and injuries, also saying the numbers could be incomplete due to gaps in knowledge during the withdrawal of American troops. The number of military fatalities has been trending upward, especially during the most recent Taliban campaign to retake land in June. Head of the inspector general’s office John Sopko criticized U.S. military leaders for overlooking the Afghan military’s shortcomings and setting unrealistic goals. He said, “Don’t believe what you’re told by the generals or the ambassadors or people in the administration saying we’re never going to do this again. That’s exactly what we said after Vietnam: ‘We’re never going to do this again.’ Lo and behold, we did Iraq. And we did Afghanistan. We will do this again.” 

A Hong Kong court sentenced pro-democracy protestor Tong Ying-kit to nine years in prison, reports the New York Times. Earlier this week, the court convicted him for terrorism and inciting secession after he crashed a motorcycle into police while flying a protest banner. The maximum sentence for the charges under the new national security law is life imprisonment. Tong’s trial is considered a preview of how the court will handle the more than 60 other people indicted under the new law.

The Navy will file charges against a sailor suspected of intentionally setting a fire aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, according to the Washington Post. The ship burned for four days in a San Diego pier last summer and was eventually scrapped, needing $2.5 billion in repairs. The unidentified seaman apprentice will be charged with aggravated arson and willful hazarding of a vessel, though the commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet has not yet decided whether to proceed with a court-martial. The Navy is also conducting two other investigations relating to safety and circumstances within command during the fire.

The first group of Afghan interpreters being resettled arrived in the U.S. early Friday morning, according to the BBC. The 200 interpreters, who are being resettled under the Special Immigrant Visa program, will be processed for around a week at Fort Lee in Virginia. There are already plans to evacuate nearly 2,500 Afghans who collaborated with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and the Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would allocate $1 billion to fund evacuations and loosen requirements to permit approximately 8,000 more visas. 

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, rejected reports that Pakistani fighters were aiding the Taliban in its conflict with Afghan government forces, writes Al Jazeera. During an interview with PBS, Khan referred to the allegations as “absolute nonsense” and stressed the negative impact on Pakistan of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. He also said he would not allow the U.S. to use Pakistan as a base for intelligence or counterinsurgency operations and pushed for negotiations to reach an agreement for an “inclusive government.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will not permit the public listing of Chinese companies without an explanation of their legal structure and the likelihood of the Chinese government involving itself in their operations, reports Reuters. SEC Chair Gary Gensler also instructed staff to “engage in targeted additional reviews of filings for companies with China-based operations.” Among other disclosures, Chinese companies are being asked to disclose the potential effects of Chinese authorities denying or revoking permission to list on U.S. exchanges and whether they are required to list publicly as an offshore shell company.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Quinta Jurecic and Evelyn Douek discuss social media’s role in warning of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in the latest edition in the Arbiters of Truth series.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk in which he interviews Tobias Harris of the Center for American Progress about his new biography of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “The Iconoclast.”

Abby Lemert and Eleanor Runde discussed the international coalition that accused China of the Microsoft ransomware attack, the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against Chinese academics and more in this week’s SinoTech.

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