Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Elliot Setzer
Tuesday, May 19, 2020, 11:40 AM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion

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The State Department Inspector General who was fired by President Trump last Friday was investigating the president’s effort to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval, reports Politico. Steve Linick was also looking into claims that Secretary of State Miko Pompeo improperly directed State Department political appointees to perform personal errands for him.

Sen Bob Menendez said yesterday that he will introduce legislation to limit President Trump’s ability to fire inspectors general within the administration, writes the Hill.

President Trump has sent a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) threatening to permanently pull U.S. funding to the body over its response to COVID-19, according to the BBC. In a letter to the head of the WHO, Trump outlined a 30-day deadline for the organization to commit to “substantive improvements.”

The Trump administration will announce today that it has signed a $354 million contract with a new Virginia-based company to manufacture generic medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients that are needed to treat COVID-19, in an effort to bring pharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chains back to the U.S. from India and China, according to the Times.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that victims of al Qaeda’s 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa are eligible for punitive damages from Sudan, which was found to have assisted the militant group, writes the Wall Street Journal.

Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port terminal was the victim of a substantial cyberattack on May 9 that U.S. and foreign government officials say appears to have originated with Israel, reports the Washington Post. The attack brought shipping traffic to an abrupt halt for days, presumably in retaliation for an earlier Iranian attempt to penetrate computers that operate rural water distribution systems in Israel, according to cybersecurity officials.

Afghan security forces bombed a medical clinic in the northern province of Kunduz today in an attempt to hold back an attack by the Taliban on the provincial capital, according to the New York Times. A nurse at the clinic said about 50 people had been at the clinic at the time of the bombing, including civilians.

Some U.S. China analysts say the Trump administration’s attempt to thwart Huawei’s access to semiconductors has significant loopholes, writes the Wall Street Journal. U.S. Commerce Department rules require licenses when foreign suppliers have “knowledge” that the product is destined for Huawei, but experts warn that semiconductor supply chains are so vast that suppliers could argue they didn’t know their products were ultimately sold to the Chinese company.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

William Ford summarized a videoconference in which the Cyberspace Solarium Commission makes its case to Congress to adopt recommendations from its recent report.

Andrew Crespo, Laura Londoño Pardo, Kristy Parker and Nathaniel Sobel argued Judge Sullivan can reject the government’s motion to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn.

Jack Goldsmith and Ben Miller-Gootnick analyzed the legal issues implicated by Trump’s firing of the State Department Inspector General.

Judd Devermont and Leanne Erdberg Steadman argued the U.S. military should reaffirm its non-counterterrorism missions in Africa.

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Elliot Setzer is a Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford Law School and a Ph.D student at Yale University. He previously worked at Lawfare and the Brookings Institution.

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