Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma
Thursday, August 12, 2021, 4:17 PM

The Biden administration is preparing for the eventuality that Kabul and the Afghan government could fall within 30 days, with thousands of Marines moving into position for a potential evacuation of U.S. embassy staff and American nationals in Afghanistan’s capital, writes the New York Times. The State Department announced a drawdown of embassy personnel and urged Americans to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, though the embassy in Kabul will remain open. Additionally, U.S. officials have been attempting to secure a guarantee from the Taliban that the embassy will not be attacked in the event that they attack Kabul, which seems increasingly likely as the Taliban begins to take control of the surrounding area. Diplomatic sources told CNN that the U.S. is also considering moving the Kabul embassy into the Kabul airport.

Representatives from many countries, including the U.S., Russia, China and EU representatives, are in Doha, Qatar for talks with the Taliban, according to the Washington Post. The meetings, led by the United States, are an effort to show the Taliban that it will be diplomatically isolated if it continues with its attempt to take over Afghanistan by force. Many countries have reduced their diplomatic staff in Afghanistan or closed their missions altogether, amid fears that Kabul could be overrun and the Taliban could complete its takeover as it continues to make significant territorial gains.

During closed-door testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen revealed that former President Donald Trump was insistent on using the Justice Department to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, reports the Washington Post. Rosen, according to a source familiar with the proceedings, also suggested that Jeffrey Clark, another top Trump Justice Department official, was willing to assist Trump’s campaign against the election results. In addition to the Senate Judiciary Committee, a House select committee on the events of Jan. 6 and the Justice Department inspector general are investigating the former president’s actions and the conduct of officials. Last month, the Biden administration confirmed to a number of high-level members of the Justice Department under President Trump that it would not use executive privilege to prevent them from openly testifying about the involvement of the Justice Department in the attempt to invalidate the results of the 2020 presidential election.

A transcript of Rudy Giuliani’s interview with Justice Department investigators during a probe into potential FBI leaks revealed that he told them it was appropriate to “throw a fake” during campaigns, writes The Hill. Investigators were especially concerned with Giuliani’s promise of an October surprise during the 2016 presidential election which was followed just a few days later by then-FBI Director James Comey announcing that an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server had been reopened. Giuliani insisted that he had no knowledge that such a move was planned, that he was referring to an advertisement purchase and that exaggeration is not inappropriate during a campaign.

Human Rights Watch concluded that rockets fired from Gaza at Israel were war crimes, writes the BBC. Clashes in East Jerusalem triggered 11 days of fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces that saw 13 Israelis killed and 260 Gazans killed. Some in Gaza were killed by unguided rockets and mortars fired at Israel that fell short. The international human rights watchdog released a report last month identifying Israeli airstrikes in Gaza as war crimes as well.

Russian authorities arrested a researcher on hypersonic flight on suspicion of treason, reports the BBC. Alexander Kuranov is suspected of giving information about hypersonic technology to a foreigner, though details about what he revealed and whether it compromised the security of Russia’s hypersonic missile program are unclear.

Pakistan concluded that last month’s bombing in the north of the country that killed ten Chinese workers and three Pakistanis was carried out by the Pakistani Taliban and blamed the attack on the Indian and Afghan intelligence services, reports Al Jazeera. Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the vehicle used in the attack originated in Afghanistan and that the planning of the attack was “clearly connected” to Indian and Afghan intelligence networks. Qureshi also emphasized that Afghanistan is obligated to assist in the investigation of this attack and turn over suspects. Neither Afghanistan nor India has commented on the allegations.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare Editor in Chief Benjamin Wittes discusses the Biden administration’s new eviction moratorium with Senior Editor Alan Rozenshtein and Founding Editor Jack Goldsmith.

Daniel Kriess and Madhavi Reddi analyzed racist and sexist attacks on Vice President Kamala Harris and what they reveal about the use of identity politics to undermine political standing.

John Bellinger argued that Sarah Cleveland’s nomination as legal adviser for the Department of State is a good decision and that she should be confirmed soon.

Alvaro Marañon and Wittes analyzed the existing legal framework around ransomware payments and its shortcomings.

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