Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Friday, March 25, 2022, 1:23 PM

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The United States and the European Commission announced a joint task force intended to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, reports the Washington Post. In an effort to lessen Russian energy dependency, President Biden announced that the U.S. and other nations will work to increase liquefied natural gas exports to Europe by at least 15 billion cubic meters by the end of this year. The European Commission president said that the explorts “will replace the [liquefied natural gas] supply we receive from Russia.” She also said of the joint task force, “Our partnership aims to sustain us through this war, to work on our independence. It also focuses on building a greener future with climate neutrality.”

President Biden announced that the U.S. will accept 100,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, writes the Washington Post. The Biden administration reported that the refugees will be brought to the U.S. via a number of legal pathways such as the U.S. refugee program and  “humanitarian parole,” which offers temporary work authorization with no pathway to citizenship. Biden said, “Many Ukrainian refugees will wish to stay in Europe, closer to their homes, but we’ll also welcome 100,000 Ukrainians to the United States with a focus on reuniting families.” 

NATO announced it will provide Ukraine with equipment and training to address fallout from a possible chemical, biological or nuclear Russian attack, according to the New York Times. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the decision was largely based on concerns that Russia is trying to create a pretext for these types of attacks because in recent weeks they have been falsely accusing Ukraine of using biological and chemical weapons. Stoltenberg said, “we have seen before that this way of accusing others is actually a way to create a pretext to do the same themselves.”

The United States accused four Russian officials of carrying out cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, including a nuclear power plant in Kansas, reports the New York Times. Three of the four Russian officials are members of Russia’s domestic intelligence agency. All four officials are accused of hacking computer systems of hundreds of energy companies around the world from 2012 to 2018. Justice Department officials warn that these hacks should be taken as a warning of the cyberattacks Russia can carry out on critical infrastructure in the U.S. and other countries, especially in the wake of rising tensions surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement that “Although the criminal charges unsealed today reflect past activity, they make crystal clear the urgent ongoing need for American businesses to harden their defenses and remain vigilant.” 

U.S. intelligence analysts reportedly determined that Russian military spy hackers executed a cyberattack on a Ukrainian satellite broadband service that disrupted the country’s military communications during the start of Russia’s invasion, writes the Washington Post. Though the U.S. government has not yet announced the information publicly, a spokesperson for the National Security Council reported that analysts are “looking at this closely,” and that the Biden administration is “concerned about the apparent use of cyber operations to disrupt communications systems in Ukraine and across Europe and affect businesses and individuals’ access to the Internet.” 

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol announced it would recommend former Trump administration officials and allies Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro to be held in contempt of Congress, according to Axios. Scavino was subpoenaed in September alongside other Trump allies Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon, while Navarro was subpoenaed last month. Both witnesses have yet to appear in front of the select committee. In the past, the select committee has made this recommendation when hostile witnesses refuse to comply with their subpoenas.

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has obtained over two dozen text messages between former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, reports CNN. The text messages were reportedly exchanged between November 2020 and mid-January 2021, and allegedly show Thomas pleading with Meadows to continue efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. 

Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and others accusing them of “malicious[ly] conspir[ing] to weave a false narrative” that his campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, according to the Washington Post. The lawsuit states, “The actions taken in furtherance of [the defendants’] scheme — falsifying evidence, deceiving law enforcement, and exploiting access to highly-sensitive data sources — are so outrageous, subversive and incendiary that even the events of Watergate pale in comparison.” Trump claims he suffered expenses of over $24 million to defend himself against the accusations. Trump is seeking damages of approximately $72 million. 

The Supreme Court voted to expand religious rights of inmates on death row in the death chamber, writes the Wall Street Journal.  In an 8-to-1 ruling with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, the court blocked the execution of a Texas inmate after the state refused to let his minister pray over and lay hands on him in the death chamber. The state claimed that allowing the inmate’s pastor to audibly pray over or touch him risked disrupting the procedure. In the ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that English and American executions have seen spiritual advisors comforting inmates for centuries during their final moments prior to execution. The court ruled that Texas was allowed to proceed with the execution if it accommodated the inmate’s pastor. The inmate’s lawyer said that “The Supreme Court clarified that the rule of law is as ubiquitous as God. Both exist everywhere and always—high up in the hallowed halls of power and down low in the hell of the execution chamber.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Thomas Kent about getting information into Russia during a period of rapidly increasing repression by the Russian government. They also discussed whether, and how, democracies should think about leveraging information as a tool against repressive governments, and how to distinguish journalism from such strategic efforts.

Joshua Braver published a review of Noah Feldman, “The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021).

Natalie K. Orpett posted a job announcement for a Lawfare fellowship through the Emerging Tech Policy Leaders program. 

David Priess shared an episode of the Chatter Podcast in which Shane Harris spoke with Catherine Belton about the rise of Vladimir Putin from KGB officer to president of Russia.

Alvaro Marañon posted a FBI report on suspected internet crimes and a Senate staff report on ransomware.  

Marañon also posted two federal indictments against four Russian government employees for their alleged involvement in “two historical hacking campaigns targeting critical infrastructure worldwide.”

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