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Today's Headlines and Commentary

Victoria Clark
Thursday, July 19, 2018, 2:49 PM

U.S. intelligence leaders showed President Trump evidence that Vladimir Putin ordered an operation to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections two weeks before his inauguration, reports the New York Times.

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U.S. intelligence leaders showed President Trump evidence that Vladimir Putin ordered an operation to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections two weeks before his inauguration, reports the New York Times. The evidence they presented included the presence of stolen DNC emails on Russian military intelligence networks and a high-level source close to Putin who described the Russian president’s direct involvement to the CIA. The information from the source was considered so sensitive that CIA director John Brennan withheld it from the President’s Daily Briefing, instead sharing it directly with President Obama and a select group of top national security aides.. The new information calls into question Trump’s statements at a press conference in Helsinki just two days ago that he “did not see any reason why [Russia] would be” behind the electoral interference. Trump later said he meant to say “wouldn’t,” but on Wednesday asserted that Russia was no longer targeting the United States, in contradiction to statements made earlier that day by the director of national intelligence.

The Israeli Knesset passed a controversial law defining Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, reports Haaretz. The bill also claims that “the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people,” says that a “united Jerusalem” is the Israeli capital, and would no longer consider Arabic a national language. Arab lawmakers protested the law widely, saying it formally cements the fact that Arab-Israelis “will always be second-class citizens.”

A federal magistrate denied bail to Mariia Butina, a Russian national accused of acting as an agent of Russia during a years-long influence campaign within the United States, says CNN. Prosecutors argued that no conditions could ensure Butina’s return to trial other than detention: she will now spend the remaining time before trial in jail. Russian embassy officials announced they will meet with Butina in the next few days to provide her “all necessary help,” according to the Washington Post.

President Trump requested to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani eight times in 2017, and Iran rejected the request each time, says the Times. The past year has been tumultuous for U.S.-Iran relations. In May, the U.S. withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reinstituted sanctions against Tehran. In June, the U.S. announced sanctions against any country that bought oil from Iran after Nov. 4. And just two days ago, Iran sued the United States in the International Court of justice. The reports, if true, indicate a previously unknown level of hostility from Tehran toward Trump and interest from Trump toward Tehran.

According to a source within the British police, U.K. authorities are certain that the individuals responsible for the nerve agent attack on an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in March of 2018 were Russian actors who have since left Britain, reports BBC. After Sergei and Yulia Skripal were exposed to the nerve agent Novichok in March of this year, the U.K expelled 23 Russian diplomats as retaliation for Moscow’s refusal to answer any questions about the matter. However, the reports from the police source are unsubstantiated by government officials. Reuters reports that the British Security Minister described the accusation that Russians were behind the attack as “utter speculation.”

A U.S. congressional delegation toured two prisons in Syria built for Islamic State fighters and run by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, reports a Times reporter who accompanied the codel on the trip. The facilities hold more than 1,000 men from almost 50 countries and present a unique problem as many of the prisoner’s home countries refuse to take the men back. It is unclear whether the SDF will be able to hold the prisoners for an extended period of time as it is not a state actor and has no formal court system. Sen. Lindsay Graham, who was part of the delegation, said the current situation is “not really as sustainable as I thought” and requires immediate discussion.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron announced their paper on the challenges of “deep fakes” and an event at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday which is available to livestream.

Andrew Keane Woods argued that scholars have used the wrong tools to study constitutional and human rights.

Mikhaila Fogel posted the complaint that Iran filed against the United States in the International Court of Justice.

Victoria Clark posted the Justice Department’s memorandum in support of pretrial detention for Mariia Butina.

Stephanie Leutert shared the first in a series of dispatches on her experiences along Mexico’s southern border.

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Victoria Clark is an intern at Lawfare. She was formerly a national security intern in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. She is a senior at Georgetown University studying Government and History.

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