Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Benjamin Pollard
Wednesday, July 27, 2022, 2:44 PM

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Justice Department prosecutors have begun investigating former President Trump’s actions as a part of its Jan. 6 criminal probe, reports the Washington Post. Officials have also obtained the phone records of Mark Meadows and other senior Trump aides. The three offices most connected to the probe currently are the criminal and national security divisions at main justice and the U.S. attorney’s office in the District of Columbia, according to the Post’s report.

Emails from Trump advisers and aides obtained by the New York Times reveal that advisers and aides questioned the legality of installing pro-Trump electors in states won by Biden. One lawyer connected to the campaign described the electors as “fake” in an email. The emails showed that aides discussed these efforts with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn.

A referendum in Tunisia endowing President Kais Saied with expansive executive powers passed with a 30.5 percent turnout on Tuesday. The charter received 94.6 percent support with opposition groups that boycotted the vote calling the outcome “inflated.” The new constitution weakens the powers of the judiciary while providing the president with complete power to appoint government officials without approval from parliament.

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed at least five people and injured 60 more in the Philippines. The quake resulted in 58 landslides and reached 15 cities and 218 towns, according to the country’s interior secretary. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called for the formation of a new disaster resilience department, speaking to reporters after the earthquake on Wednesday.

WNBA athlete Brittney Griner testified that she was told to sign documents that she did not understand when she was first detained by Russian authorities. Griner said this to a Russian court on Wednesday during her trial on drug charges that could result in her receiving a sentence of 10 years in jail. The basketball player also said that she was subjected to an untranslated interrogation and reiterated the position that has been advanced by her lawyers that she did not intend to break Russian laws.

Beijing tried to infiltrate the Federal Reserve for almost 10 years, according to a report from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee GOP staff. The report outlined attempts by the Chinese government to recruit Fed employees in an effort to influence monetary policy, including detaining an employee four times on his trip to Shanghai in 2019 and threatening his family. According to the staff’s analysis, the Fed failed to cooperate with law enforcement to stymie Chinese efforts. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell disputed this conclusion in a letter to the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Rob Portman, stating that he has “strong concerns about assertions and implications in the report.”

The Senate passed legislation that subsidizes domestic semiconductor manufacturing to assist U.S. companies in their competition with Chinese counterparts. The $280 billion bill received bipartisan support with a vote of 64 to 33. The bill now moves to the House where analysts believe it will pass, and may be signed into law by the end of the week.

Kyiv continued its HIMARS rocket strikes on the Antonovsky bridge last night through this morning, damaging the structure and blocking vehicle passage. Russian forces had used the bridge, which connects Kherson to other parts of southern Ukraine, to send supplies to Russian fighters within the city. The strikes come amid recent Ukrainian plans to launch a counteroffensive to regain control of Kherson.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Scott R. Anderson sat down with Derek Muller to discuss the independent state legislature doctrine in light of the pending Supreme Court case Moore v. Harper.

Sourabh Gupta reviewed the State Department’s recent analysis of South China Sea entitlements, concluding that the analysis is legally flawed.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast in which he sat down with Christna Ayiotis, Michael Ellis, and Nick Weaver to discuss a congressional bill that would provide tax breaks to the semiconductor industry, Russian information warfare in Ukraine, Justice Department attempts to seize cryptocurrency from hackers, and more.

Yuval Shany and Amichai Cohen discussed a recent Israeli Supreme Court ruling that effectively blocks tort claims arising from Gaza. 

Matt Gluck shared an audit report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that found questionable payments from the Pentagon to the Government of Afghanistan for defense ministry salaries from 2019 to 2021.

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