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President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pledged to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the New York Times reported. In televised remarks from the White House, Trump reversed nearly seven decades of U.S. policy. He also promised to eventually move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but signed a waiver under the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act that allows the State Department to avoid penalties for keeping the mission in Tel Aviv. The European Union’s top diplomat, China’s foreign ministry, Pope Francis and other world leaders condemned the move.
At a NATO foreign ministers summit, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Post reported. Diplomats meeting with Tillerson condemned the move, saying it harmed chances for peace in the Middle East. Germany’s foreign minister warned that the Trump administration is undermining the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and Europe, according to the Post. On Wednesday, Tillerson said he is hopeful that Russia and the U.S. could reach a deal on a peacekeeping force to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported. The U.S. and Russia have disagreed about whether the proposed peacekeeping force could operate along Ukraine’s Russian border.
A whistleblower said that Michael Flynn sent messages to business partners during the presidential inauguration saying that their U.S.-Russia project to build nuclear reactors in across the Middle East was, “good to go,” Politico reported. Congressional democrats said the whistleblower approached them last summer with the information that Flynn sent messages to Alex Copson, Flynn’s partner on the previously reported power plant scheme, during Trump’s inaugural address. Copson said Flynn stated that Russia sanctions that might hamper the project would be removed under the new administration. Rep. Elijah Cummings said special counsel Robert Mueller’s team requested that congressional democrats hold off on releasing the information until the special counsel’s investigation “completed certain investigative steps.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Russia from participating in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Times reported. The ban is an unprecedented punishment for Russia’s extensive state-backed doping program. Russian government officials are barred from attending the games and its national symbols will not be part of any official Olympic ceremony. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would not bar Russian athletes from competing as neutral individuals, the Washington Post reported. Putin denied the IOC’s claims about the Russian doping operation during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
British intelligence and police forces stopped a plot by extremist militants to assassinate Prime Minister Theresa May, Sky News reported. Police arrested two men last week who planned to use an improvised explosive device to attack 10 Downing Street, which serves as the official residence of the prime minister. The men appeared in court on Wednesday to face charges of terrorism related to the plot to use explosives, including a suicide vest, to kill the prime minister, according to Reuters.
Secretary Tillerson said that Cuba bears responsibility for not stopping the attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel at the U.S. embassy in Havana, the Times reported. The State Department discovered the attacks against 24 of its staff in Cuba in January. Doctors treating the victims found brain abnormalities in their investigation into hearing, vision, and mental damage, the AP reported. U.S. officials said the medical finding laid out more evidence against the previously discussed possibility of “sonic attacks” and instead implied that something else must have caused the damage.
A joint U.S.-Afghan military operation killed the top al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported. A series of air and ground operations in several Afghan provinces led to the death of Omar bin Khatab and over 80 other al-Qaeda operatives. U.S. officials said the operations showed the progress that Afghan security forces are making in the fight against terrorism.
China denied that it attempts to influence Australian domestic politics as the Australian prime minister proposed a new law designed to limit foreign influence, the Times reported. The Chinese embassy in Australia said media reports about its attempts to exercise soft power in the country were misleading. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed bills banning foreign campaign donations and requiring registration of foreign agents. Australian media has reported extensively on political pressure put on Chinese students at Australian universities to support the Chinese Communist Party.
The Senate confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen as Secretary of Homeland Security in a 62-37 vote, the Post reported. Nielsen, an attorney and cybersecurity expert who was the deputy to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, will take over from Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
Jesse Lempel explained how Tier III terrorist designations work and the dispute between the courts and the administration on the designation’s proper scope.
J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker, covering the death of the ex-Yemeni president, the Jerusalem embassy announcement, and the trial of Reza Zarrab.
Stewart Baker shared the Cyberlaw Podcast, featuring an interview with Susan Hennessey and Andrew McCarthy on unmasking and FISA Section 702.
James Pfander reviewed Amanda Tyler’s new book on the history of habeas corpus in war.
Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring audio from an event with Bruce Riedel on his new book about the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
Josh Blackman analyzed the claim that the president cannot obstruct justice.
Benjamin Wittes argued that the president can obstruct justice in the context of carrying out his constitutional duties.
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