Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Thursday, March 3, 2022, 3:16 PM

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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol reports that it has obtained evidence indicating that former President Donald Trump and his allies “engaged in a criminal conspiracy” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, reports Politico. In a court filing submitted to the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, the committee wrote, “The Select Committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.” The select committee released its filings as part of a brief in its case against John Eastman, a former Trump lawyer who is refusing to turn over his emails at the request of the panel. 

A member of the Oath Keepers right-wing extremist group allegedly involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol became the first Capitol riot defendant to plead guilty to the charge of seditious conspiracy, writes the Washington Post. Joshua James admitted to leading a group that sent “two tactically equipped teams” into the Capitol building. James also claimed responsibility for organizing the collection of a stockpile of weapons in a hotel just outside of Washington, D.C. In addition to seditious conspiracy, James pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of obstructing an official proceeding and is likely to face the most severe sentence of any Jan. 6 defendant so far. 

Kherson became the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces, according to the New York Times. Russian troops and tanks reportedly rolled into the port-city of Kherson after multiple days of intense fighting that resulted in at least 300 Ukrainian casualties. Kherson’s mayor confirmed in an interview that the city had been taken over by the Russians. He said, “There is no Ukrainian army here. The city is surrounded.” Fighting continues in and around other major Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol. 

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi reported on Wednesday that 1 million people have fled across the borders of Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion one week ago, reports NPR. Grandi tweeted, “In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries.” The new number of Ukrainian refugees equals over 2 percent of the country’s total population of 44 million. The U.N. reports that about 500,000 refugees are in Poland. Others are reportedly dispersed in countries such as Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia. 

The U.N. General Assembly voted at an emergency session on Wednesday to condemn and demand an immediate halt of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, writes the Associated Press. 141 countries voted in favor of the “Aggression against Ukraine” resolution. 35 countries abstained from the vote, and only five voted against the resolution. In addition to Russia, the four other nations that voted against the resolution were Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea. 

A Western intelligence report revealed that senior Chinese officials allegedly told senior Russian officials in February to wait to invade Ukraine until after the Winter Olympics in Beijing came to a close, according to the New York Times. The intelligence suggests that senior Chinese officials knew to a certain extent about Russia’s plans to attack Ukraine in the weeks prior to the invasion.

The Senate unanimously passed the Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act amid fears of potential Russian cyberattacks in retaliation for U.S. sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, reports the Hill. The cybersecurity legislation—if signed into law—would require companies in critical sectors to notify the government of any potential hacks or ransomware in their computer systems. Sen. Chuck Schumer said of the legislation, “Cyber warfare is truly one of the dark arts specialized by Putin and his authoritarian regime. And this bill will help protect us from Putin's attempted cyberattacks against our country.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) officially launched an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, writes BBC News. After 39 countries called for an inquiry into potential violations of international law, the ICC’s chief prosecutor reported that invesigators are collecting evidence on alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. 

The Justice Department announced the creation of a task force to target Russian oligarchs who allegedly helped Putin with his invasion of Ukraine, according to the New York Times. The creation of Task Force KleptoCapture is reportedly part of an effort to seize and freeze the assets of Russian billionaires and affiliates who have violated sanctions put forth by the United States. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, “We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war.”

The Justice Department claims that telecommunications giant Ericsson violated a billion-dollar legal settlement, reports the Washington Post. Ericsson allegedly violated the settlement by failing to disclose evidence of possible corruption and payments to terrorists in Iraq. After the release of a report on the findings of an Ericsson internal probe, shares of the telecommunications company dropped 13 percent in value. 

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the government could invoke the state secrets privilege to block the testimony of two former CIA contractors sought by a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, reports CNN. The detainee, Abu Zubaydah, wanted to subpoena the contractors for information about CIA blacksites for use in a separate ongoing criminal investigation in Poland over the CIA’s alleged conduct in that country nearly 20 years ago.  

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Stephanie Pell sat down with Daniel Solove and Woodrow Hartzog to talk about their new book “Breached! Why Data Security Law Fails and How to Improve It.” They discussed a number of issues they raise in their book, including how current data security law overemphasizes the conduct of breached entities and fails to distribute responsibility among a range of actors in the data ecosystem that contributes to the data breach.

Ciaran Martin outlined how activity in the digital domain may affect the war in Eastern Europe and provides insight into the West’s cyber posture. 

Daniel Byman evaluated the benefits and risks of foreign fighters joining in the war against Russia. 

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which Alan Rozenshtein, Quinta Jurecic and Scott R. Anderson discussed the conflict in Ukraine. They talked about how the Ukrainians were able to stymie Russian efforts to remove its government and the potential impact the conflict may have on our domestic political scene. 

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk in which he sat down with Justin Sherman to discuss Vladimir Putin's history of cyber operations and what he is thinking about as he considers escalating in the cyber domain. 

Schneider shared another episode of ChinaTalk in which he and Chris Miller discuss if Putin is on drugs and the Russia-China tech trade in the context of global sanctions. 

Schneider shared yet another episode of ChinaTalk in which he, Adam Tooze and Matt Klein discussed “NATO for Trade” for sanctions and how the conflict in Ukraine will affect Taiwan. 

Schneider shared one more episode of ChinaTalk in which he sat down with Ivana Karásková and discussed the German political about-face in favor of supporting Ukraine and  what President Xi thinks about the conflict. 

Geoffrey S. Corn explained why Congress needs to amend the War Crimes Act to align federal criminal jurisdiction over war crimes with the international law concept of universal jurisdiction.

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