Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Tuesday, April 12, 2022, 3:18 PM

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At least 16 people were shot or injured by a man wearing a gas mask and construction vest at the 36th street station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, according to ABC 7 New York. Witnesses reported that just before 8:30 a.m. the gunman boarded a Manhattan-bound N train and threw smoke bombs toward the center of the car. Shortly after, he opened fire with a handgun, hitting several individuals on the train and on the platform. Unused smoke canisters left by the suspect were originally reported to be undetonated explosive devices. New York Police Department officials later clarified that no known explosive devices were recovered on the subway or on platforms, reports NBC 4 New York.  New York Governor Kathy Hochul reported that the suspect remains at-large. 

New York Lieutenant Governor Brain A. Benjamin was arrested on a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bribery, reports the New York Times. A joint-investigation conducted by the F.B.I and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York found that during his time as a state senator, Benjamin allegedly conspired with a real estate developer in Harlem to funnel illegal campaign donations to his unsuccessful 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller. Benjamin was reportedly planning to funnel state funds to the real estate developer in exchange for thousands of dollars in fraudulent campaign donations. The lieutenant governor surrendered himself to law enforcement early Tuesday morning. 

A former Virginia police officer was convicted of six charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, writes Politico. Thomas Robertson was found guilty of six felony charges including obstructing an official proceeding, civil disorder, entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and evidence-tampering. The prosecution presented videos of Robertson’s actions at the Capitol as evidence to the jury. The videos reportedly showed Robertson participating in a violent mob that injured and even threw a smoke bomb at Capitol police. 

The lawyer for Arian Taherzadeh—a man accused of posing as a Department of Homeland Security employee—claimed that Taherzadeh gave gifts to members of the Secret Service because they were his friends, not because of an ulterior motive to gain trust and influence among the agents, according to the Wall Street Journal. Federal prosecutors accused Taherzadeh and his alleged associate, Haider Ali, of impersonating federal officers. While posing as federal employees, the two men reportedly gifted Secret Service members presents such as rent-free apartments, a drone, law enforcement paraphernalia and more. Federal prosecutors also allege that the two men “stored a cache of weapons and surveillance equipment in their apartments, compromised law enforcement agents in sensitive positions and tried to cover up their crimes.” Taherzadeh’s lawyer claimed that the prosecutors have “jumped to the wildest conspiracy theories imaginable.” 

Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of dropping chemical weapons on the city of Mariupol, reports the Hill. According to a post on Telegram by the National Guard of Ukraine, “Russian occupation forces used a poisonous substance of unknown origin against Ukrainian military and civilians in the city of Mariupol, which was dropped from an enemy [unmanned aerial vehicle]. The victims have respiratory failure, vestibulo-atactic syndrome.” The U.S. Defense Department has yet to confirm the accusations but said that it will continue to monitor the situation. 

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and reported that the two leaders had a “direct” and “tough” conversation, writes the Washington Post. Nehammer said in a statement that he urged Putin to initiate an immediate cease-fire and to establish working humanitarian corridors. Nehammer said, “This is not a friendly visit. I have just come from Ukraine and have seen with my own eyes the immeasurable suffering caused by the Russian war of aggression.”

The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will temporarily allow for the sale of high-ethanol content gasoline in the summer months in an attempt to curb record-high gas prices seen as the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal. The decision will approve the sale of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol between June 1 and Sept. 15. Usually, gasoline with only a 10 percent ethanol content is sold during the hot summer in an effort to reduce smog caused by the higher volatility of the 15 percent blend. Biden administration officials report that the switch to 15 percent ethanol gasoline in summer months could reduce gas prices by 10 cents per gallon and also lessen reliance on oil. 

After Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from parliament in a vote of no-confidence, the country’s parliament elected Shehbaz Sharif as the new prime minister, reports the Washington Post. Sharif is a veteran politician and leader of the opposition. He will serve as Pakistan’s acting prime minister at least until a general election is held, which must be scheduled for no later than July 2023. In a speech on Sunday, Sharif advocated for unity in the country and to improve the economy. He said, “ The economic challenges are huge and we need to make a way out of these troubles. We will have to shed sweat and blood to revive the economy.”

El Salvadoran authorities have detained more than 9,000 citizens in response to a surge in gang violence in the country, writes the Wall Street Journal. El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele temporarily enacted emergency powers that suspend constitutional guarantees for Salvadorans in an effort to crack down on violence. El Salvador’s government also enacted anti-gang legislation that reportedly weakens civil rights and rule of law in the country. For example, the legislation changes the country’s penal code to allow El Salvadoran law enforcement to detain civilians without evidence for suspected gang involvement.  Residents in cities with high crime rates and members of human rights groups claim that the government is making arbitrary arrests of young people from low-income communities for having tattoos, carrying cash or protesting the detention of family members for the aforementioned reasons.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast which featured a discussion between Quinta Jurecic, Andrew Kent and Benjamin Wittes about why the period after Donald Trump's departure from office has not yet seen any comparable spree of legislative action to reform the executive branch than the period after Watergate and President Nixon's resignation. 

Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez explained the recent spike of gang-violence in El Salvador and its implications. 

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