Today's Headlines and Commentary

Alex Potcovaru
Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 4:23 PM

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a second, previously undisclosed conversation at the G20 summit earlier this month, The New York Times reports. The interaction, which may have lasted as long as an hour, occurred on July 7 during a banquet for G20 leaders and their spouses. Sources said that Trump walked over to Putin about halfway through the dinner and began the conversation.

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President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a second, previously undisclosed conversation at the G20 summit earlier this month, The New York Times reports. The interaction, which may have lasted as long as an hour, occurred on July 7 during a banquet for G20 leaders and their spouses. Sources said that Trump walked over to Putin about halfway through the dinner and began the conversation. The pair relied exclusively on Russia’s translator, meaning no official U.S. government record of what they discussed exists. Sean Spicer said the President described the interaction as small talk and pleasantries and as lasting much less than an hour. Trump criticized coverage of the meeting in two tweets posted Tuesday evening calling it “sick.” Trump and Putin had met earlier that day on the sidelines of the summit in a closely scrutinized face-to-face meeting where they discussed topics that included Russian interference in the 2016 elections and a ceasefire in southwestern Syria.

The Supreme Court ordered that the Trump administration must expand the family relationships that qualify for exemptions from its travel ban, but said the administration could enforce tight restrictions on refugees, The Washington Post reports. The court partially denied the government’s request to stay the order from Hawaii’s federal district court that expanded the government’s definition of “close” family relationship to include grandparents, among others. But it did stay the part of the district court ruling that forced the administration to grant an exception to refugees with offers from refugee resettlement agencies. The government had asked the court to clarify the language in its initial June 26 ruling, but the court said that the litigation should proceed through normal channels, making the next stage in this case the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump has ended the covert CIA program that armed anti-Assad rebels in Syria, the Post reports. The program began under the Obama administration in 2013 to pressure the Assad regime, but some believed that Russia’s deployment of forces in 2015 undercut its effectiveness. Russia actively sought an end to the program, and critics of the move said it was a major concession to the Kremlin. Others have noted that it better reflects the reality of Assad’s entrenched position. The move could result in an influx of sophisticated weapons from Turkey and Persian Gulf allies flowing to rebel groups, including radical factions.

In the District of Columbia, warrantless requests for citizens’ cellphone location records or internet activity grew sevenfold in three years, the Post reports. In response to an open-records lawsuit, a federal judge released the information on requests made in cases handled by the Department of Justice or the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office between 2008 and 2016. The standard for obtaining the records is lower than that to obtain a search warrant.The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2014 that a warrant is required to search the contents of cellphones, and this fall it will address whether a warrant should be required to track a suspect’s location based on cell tower data. Experts believe the information revealed in the D.C. case could influence that ruling.

Mohammed bin Salman, now Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and next in line for the throne, plotted the ouster of rival Mohammed bin Nayef, the Times reports. Although the media depicted the shift as a relatively seamless transition, former U.S. officials and associates of the Saudi royal family said that it involved an all-night meeting in which officials pressured Nayef to step aside and told senior princes he was unfit to serve as king due to a drug problem. Reports have said that Nayef is now confined to his palace. The Wall Street Journal provided a detailed timeline of events and revealed that the Trump administration was tipped off about the power grab a week before it took place.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will decide whether the government of a single nation can force Google to remove search results anywhere in the world, The Wall Street Journal reports. The question stems from a dispute between French privacy regulators and Google over the E.U.’s “right to be forgotten” policy. In that ECJ decision, the court ruled that Europeans have a right to ask search engines to remove links from searches for their name if the links are old, irrelevant, or infringe on their privacy. While Google applied the policy to its websites within Europe, it resisted expanding it to other versions of its search engine, including Regulators argue that individuals can easily mask their true location and thus access the information published on the other versions of the search engine. Several weeks ago, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Google had to remove links to certain content that violated intellectual property rights from all versions of its site, not only the Canadian version.

Yesterday the State, Justice, and Treasury Departments imposed new sanctions against 18 individuals and organizations they said support Iranian weapons procurement, missile development, and software theft, the Times reports. The announcement came less than a day after the Trump administration certified that Iran has been upholding its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a certification the administration must make every 90 days. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Wednesday that Iran will “stand up” to the U.S. if it imposes new sanctions and said that Iran will have an “appropriate answer” and that parliament will take action, though he did not provide specifics.

The Trump administration officially nominated former Utah governor Jon Huntsman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Politico reports. Huntsman has also served as ambassador in both Singapore and China and as the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, among other government and private sector positions. Huntsman initially endorsed Trump’s candidacy but called for him to withdraw from the race following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Herb Lin argued that avoiding “getting caught” when conducting a cyber attack does matter at the point of insertion and anytime after.

J. Dana Stuster posted the Middle East Ticker, which covered the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, Israel’s rejection of the ceasefire in southwestern Syria, and the U.S.’s caveated reaffirmation of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.

Paul Rosenzweig noted that the SF-86 form required for a security clearance, which Jared Kushner has been criticized for twice failing to file correctly, is quite complex.

Andrew Kent responded to Robert Litt’s critique of his article regarding increasing the FBI director’s independence from the President through statutory for-cause limits on his removal.

Michel Paradis posted an excerpt of his Lawfare@FP piece exploring whether Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, or Paul Manafort could be charged under the Espionage Act.

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Alexander J. Potcovaru is a former National Security Intern at the Brookings Institution. A senior in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, he studies International Politics with an International Security concentration. He is particularly interested in the interaction of law, security, and religion.

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