Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Thursday, January 13, 2022, 4:14 PM

The Supreme Court has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine and testing mandate for large employers, reports the New York Times. The mandate would have required employees either to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or participate in routine testing. The vote on the case was 6 to 3, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in dissent. 

The founder and leader of the far-right group known as the Oath Keepers was charged with seditious conspiracy in an investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, writes the Washington Post. Stewart Rhodes was indicted and arrested after a federal grand jury introduced a new set of charges against a small group of Oath Keepers. According to the indictment, Rhodes and 10 other Oath Keepers are allegedly responsible for organizing a wide-ranging plan to storm the Capitol and disrupt the certification of President Biden’s 2020 election victory. Rhodes is the most “high-profile” person charged in the investigation thus far. 

Rep. Kevin McCarthy refused an interview request from the House select committee on Jan. 6, reports the New York Times. On Wednesday, the committee sent McCarthy a formal request to be questioned about his knowledge of former President Trump’s “state of mind and ongoing conduct” in the days following the attack on the Capitol. In a letter to McCarthy, the committee wrote that they are particularly interested in discussions he may have had with Trump about the president’s potential removal or resignation from office. In a statement refusing the interview request, McCarthy wrote that the investigation into Jan. 6 is “illegitimate” and that “the committee’s only objective is to damage its political opponents.”

Democrats in the House passed voting rights legislation that combines the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Amendment Act, according to the New York Times. Both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Rights Amendment Act have previously passed in the House and were denied a vote on the Senate floor. The passing of this “repackaged” legislation comes the day after President Biden delivered a speech encouraging Democrats to eliminate the 60-vote threshold required to end a filibuster, specifically on voting rights legislation. This will be the Senate’s fifth time voting on such legislation. The previous four attempts to debate the bills have failed due to Republican filibusters. 

The Republican National Committee (RNC) stated that it will require Republican presidential candidates to boycott debates conducted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, reports Politico. The threat of boycotting future presidential debates comes after complaints from Republicans in recent years that the commission is biased against GOP candidates. In a letter to the commission, RNC officials wrote that, “the RNC has a duty to ensure that its future presidential nominees have the opportunity to debate their opponents on a level playing field,” and that, “the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere.”

On Tuesday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, FBI and National Security Agency released a joint cybersecurity advisory, reports The Hill. The advisory outlines tactics, techniques and procedures commonly used by the Russian state, in addition to threat detection actions, guidance on incident response and measures to mitigate cyberthreats. The agencies released the advisory to “warn organizations of cyber threats and help the cybersecurity community reduce the risk presented by these threats.” 

Negotiations with Russia on tensions surrounding Ukraine continue in Vienna at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), writes the Wall Street Journal. Delegations from Ukraine were present at the meeting, marking the first time this week that Kyiv has had a seat at the negotiating table. Russia’s deputy foreign minister reported that if the U.S. military activity continues to “provoke” and “pressure” Russia, Moscow may potentially deploy its troops to Venezuela and Cuba in retaliation. 

Russian-led troops have begun to withdraw from Kazakhstan following violent protests and political unrest in the nation’s capital, writes Reuters. Upon their departure, Kazak President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev thanked the Russian-led troops for their assistance with stabilizing the country. Vladimir Putin declared Russia’s mission in Kazakhstan to be a success and expressed “hope that this practice of using our armed forces will be studied further.” The Russian defense minister reported that the withdrawal of Russian-led troops will be completed by Jan. 19.

In the first criminal trial concerning state-led torture in Syria, a German court has convicted a Syrian colonel for crimes against humanity, according to BBC News. Anwar Raslan was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the torture of more than 4,000 incarcerated people at a Syrian prison. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that Raslan’s conviction was a “landmark leap forward in the pursuit of truth and justice.” This ruling marks the first time a criminal court has recognized that the Assad regime has committed crimes against humanity against Syrian citizens.  

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Natalie Orpett, Benjamin Wittes and Alan Rozenshtein discuss Trump v. Thompson, presidential immunity and the First Amendment.  

Paul Rosenzweig analyzed the problems with the U.S. approach to homeland security.

Hadley Baker shared an episode of Lawfare No Bull that provides a straightforward account of Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the threat of domestic terrorism

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which Alan Rozenshtein, Quinta Jurecic and Scott R. Anderson sat down with Natalie Orpett to discuss the week’s biggest national security news stories.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk that features a discussion with Stony Brook University’s Michael Barnhart about what U.S.-China relations can learn from U.S.-Japan relations in the leadup to WWII. 

Elena Kagan and Alan Rozenshtein analyzed the five-hour Thompson v. Trump oral argument that took place on Jan. 10.

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