Today's Headlines and Commentary

William Ford
Thursday, March 22, 2018, 12:32 PM

John Dowd, the lawyer leading President Trump’s response to the special counsel investigation, resigned Thursday, the New York Times reports. Dowd had considered resigning several times before, believing the president was not heeding his advice.

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John Dowd, the lawyer leading President Trump’s response to the special counsel investigation, resigned Thursday, the New York Times reports. Dowd had considered resigning several times before, believing the president was not heeding his advice. Dowd believed the president should not agree to an interview with the special counsel investigation and clashed with the president over Trump’s willingness to sit for such an interview. It remains unclear who among the president’s attorneys will assume leadership of the legal team following Dowd’s departure.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that the company will contact the users whose personal information Cambridge Analytica harvested through the social media platform, the Times reports. Zuckerberg also announced that Facebook will investigate third-party applications such as the one used by Cambridge Analytica to seize users’ personal information; the company intends to restrict the access of third-party apps to the site. According to Facebook employees familiar with the proceedings, Zuckerberg has spent considerable time since the disclosure of the Cambridge Analytica data breach with engineers in an effort to determine how best to enhance the security of Facebook users’ information. The CEO noted that the company’s ongoing struggle to protect user data marks just one of the many difficulties the platform faces.

In response to requests that he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, testify before lawmakers, Zuckerberg signaled in an interview with CNN that he is willing to appear before Congress, Politico reports. In the same interview, Zuckerberg added that he would welcome tighter regulations governing advertising on Facebook, observing that “you should have the same level of transparency required” for online advertising as for advertising in print media or on television. Both Germany and Israel have opened investigations into Facebook’s potential infringement of users’ privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica breach, Reuters adds.

At Thursday’s EU Summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May will ask other European countries to join the U.K. in taking action against Russian spy networks that could be plotting attacks similar to this month’s attempted nerve-agent assassination in Salisbury, Reuters reports. Diplomats emphasized that May will not seek a formal or immediate EU strategy to target the spy networks but rather will undertake bilateral actions with willing states outside the EU framework to avoid tension with EU member-states worried about Russian backlash. Nevertheless, May intends to lobby EU leaders to announce explicitly, in solidarity with the U.K., that Russia bears responsibility for the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil. Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council, stressed the need to improve the bloc’s “preparedness for future attacks.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis emphasized the urgent need to find a peaceful solution to the war in Yemen during a meeting with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday, Reuters reports. The secretary expressed optimism about the peace efforts of the U.N.’s envoy to Yemen. Before the beginning of his conversation with the prince, however, Mattis deflected a question about civilian casualties in the Gulf country. He qualified that although he hopes to “end [the war] on positive terms for the people of Yemen,” he will continue to consider “security for the nations in the peninsula.”

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the fiscal year 2019 foreign assistance budget, both Democrats and Republicans condemned the Trump administration’s plan to make drastic cuts to the foreign aid budget, the Washington Post reports. Lawmakers noted that the cuts would greatly hinder U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, health epidemics, and human trafficking, thereby increasing the likelihood of military deployments. Mark Green, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, defended the president’s proposed 33-percent cut to the foreign aid budget, noting that the proposal tries to balance “American leadership” with the administration’s “commitment to efficiency and effectiveness.” Green swore to maximize the efficiency of “every single dollar that’s provided.”

In the coming weeks, Best Buy will stop selling phones made by the Chinese cellular-electronics company Huawei, the Wall Street Journal reports. The blow is the latest to Huawei since President Trump blocked Singapore-based Broadcom’s $117 billion bid to take over Qualcomm, an American technology company. The president blocked the coup on the grounds that a foreign takeover of Qualcomm would hinder the company’s lead in technology research, specifically 5G network infrastructure development, over Huawei. The administration deemed ceding this competitive edge to Huawei a threat to national security. Senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community have since warned Americans against purchasing or using phones manufactured by Huawei or its Chinese rival ZTE Corp. While testifying before the Senate intelligence committee during a hearing on his nomination to head the National Security Agency, Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone remarked that he does not want his friends or family to use Huawei devices.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jennifer Daskal and Peter Swire responded to Neema Singh Guliani and Naureen Shah’s rebuttal of their assertion that the CLOUD Act will enhance privacy and civil liberties protections.

Michael Webert, Molly Reynolds, and Scott Anderson examined the Trump administration’s compliance, or lack thereof, with the reporting requirements outlined by the National Defense Authorization Act.

William Ford posted the livestream of and prepared testimony from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on election security.

Ford shared the live video of and testimony from the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the fiscal year 2019 foreign assistance budget.

Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes suggested that whether the public learns what Special Counsel Robert Mueller knows depends on how Mueller conceives of his role as special counsel.

Wenqing Zhao and David Stanton shared SinoTech, which addressed President Trump’s decision to block Broadcom’s attempt to take over Qualcomm and the president’s expected announcement of tech-related tariffs and penalties against China.

Ford posted the livestreams of and prepared testimonies from the House Foreign Affairs hearings on U.S.-Saudi Arabia nuclear cooperation and China’s foreign influence operations.

Matthew Kahn shared the full audio of oral argument in Al-Alwi v. Trump.

Shannon Togawa Mercer summarized the Al-Alwi arguments.

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William Ford is an impact associate at Protect Democracy. He previously was an appellate litigation fellow in the New York Attorney General's Office and a research intern at Lawfare. He holds a bachelor's degree with honors from the College of the Holy Cross.

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