Today's Headlines and Commentary

William Ford
Monday, April 2, 2018, 3:21 PM

During President Trump’s phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 20, Trump suggested that the two leaders meet in Washington, the Washington Post reports.

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During President Trump’s phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 20, Trump suggested that the two leaders meet in Washington, the Washington Post reports. The new detail about the phone call—which drew attention last month after the revelation that President Trump congratulated Putin on his electoral victory against the advice of his advisers—-came from Yury Ushakov, a Kremlin aide. Ushakov noted that neither Moscow nor Washington has made preparations for a meeting between their leaders since the March call. He added that the West’s expulsion of scores of Russian diplomats in the wake of the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter complicates the possibility of a Russo-American summit.

U.K. officials investigating the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter believe that an assassin coated Skripal’s door handle with a banned nerve agent, the New York Times reports. Given the sensitivity and riskiness of the attempted assassination, officials maintain that the assassin must have undertaken it at the direction of and with consent from the Kremlin. Officials added that only a highly skilled professional could have carried out the nerve agent attack. To do so successfully requires advanced training with potent chemical weapons, which one could only obtain from the Russian government. Almost one month after the attack, American and British officials have begun to question whether Putin knew of or ordered the attempted assassination. Moscow continues to deny responsibility for the attack.

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman rejected requests that he investigate the deaths of 15 Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers during protests at the Gaza border over the weekend, the Post reports. The protests, labeled the “March of Return,” drew thousands of Gazans to various points along the border fence with Israel on the anniversary of the 1976 land appropriation of Arab-owned land. The Israeli military claims that Hamas, the militant group governing Gaza, tried to break through the border fence in an attack that would have endangered Israeli security. Soldiers responded by firing live ammunition into the crowds of Palestinians, killing at least 15 and wounding more than 700. In response, the U.N., human rights organizations, and Gazan families called for an official investigation into Israeli soldiers’ use of force. The defense minister rejected these requests, instead asserting that the soldiers “deserve a commendation.”

The White House announced Monday that President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet at the president’s Mar-a-Lago Hotel on April 17 to discuss their maximum pressure campaign on North Korea, Politico reports. The leaders plan to use the meeting as an opportunity to reaffirm the U.S.-Japan alliance and their countries’ joint commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the Pacific region.

Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor accused of leaking a classified report on Russian spear-phishing efforts during the 2016 presidential election, hopes to subpoena 21 U.S. states and 10 cybersecurity firms, thereby drawing them into her criminal case, Politico reports. The justification for the subpoenas, submitted as part of a court filing on Friday, remains classified and will undergo a security review before the court makes it available to the public. Last September, the Department of Homeland Security notified the 21 states that Winner hopes to subpoena that hackers acting on behalf of the Russian government targeted them during the 2016 election. The 10 cybersecurity firms that Winner’s attorneys argue might have information which would aid her defense are TrendMicro, FireEye, Eset, CrowdStrike, Volexity, F-Secure Corporation, ThreatConnect, Motherboard, Secureworks, and Fidelis Cybersecurity. While the prosecution has yet to respond to last week’s court filing requesting to subpoena the aforementioned states and firms, prosecutors contended that Winner’s requests were too sweeping earlier last month.

Official results on Monday indicated that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won reelection with 97 percent of the vote but a lower voter turnout than he secured last election, Reuters reports. Turnout reached only 41 percent, despite concerted efforts to get as many Egyptians to go to the polls as possible. In a televised statement on Monday, the election commission described Egypt’s election as free and fair. Sisi faced just one challenger in the election, himself a strong supporter of Sisi; all other contenders withdrew from the race before gaining much traction, citing intimidation and physical reprisals.

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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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