Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Matt Gluck
Thursday, August 20, 2020, 3:28 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion.

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A federal judge on Thursday rejected President Trump’s most recent effort to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from obtaining access to Trump’s tax records, according to the Washington Post. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero found that Trump’s lawyers failed to prove that the request for the records was “overbroad” or constituted “harassment.” After Marrero announced his ruling, Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency motion seeking a delay in the enforcement of Vance’s subpoena to allow the president’s team to appeal the decision; and the District Attorney’s Office reportedly agreed to wait one week before seeking to enforce the subpoena.

President Trump said Wednesday that he will demand that the U.N. reimpose sanctions on Iran that were pulled back as part of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and several powerful U.N. countries including the United States, according to Politico. Other countries involved in the agreement claim the U.S. does not have the authority to prompt this “snapback” because the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal. Last week, the U.S. was unsuccessful in its attempt to extend an arms embargo on Iran that is scheduled to expire in October.

Stephen Bannon, formerly President Trump’s top political adviser, was charged with fraud Thursday for allegedly participating in an online fundraising scheme, according to the New York Times. Bannon and three other individuals allegedly siphoned well over $1 million from donations to the “We Build the Wall” campaign, some of which they used for personal expenses.

Wildfires continued to surge across Northern California Thursday, reports the New York Times. Thousands of people are leaving their homes to escape the fast-moving blaze, and two individuals died while working to contain the fire.

A critic of the Russian government, Alexei Navalny, is in intensive care after drinking tea that his spokeswoman says appears to have been laced with poison, according to Reuters. Navalny has organized many anti-Kremlin demonstrations and was in the city of Omsk attempting to garner support for political candidates directly before he drank the tea. Navalny would not be the first Kremlin critic to become ill after a suspected poisoning—Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal were both poisoned in England in 2006 and 2018 respectively.

Demonstrators in Portland, Oregon clashed with federal law enforcement officers late Wednesday night after protesters spray-painted and broke windows of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, according to the Associated Press. Officers used tear gas and stun grenades to quell the protest activities. This is the first confrontation between protesters and federal agents in Portland since July, a month during which demonstrators consistently faced off with federal agents in the city.

Facebook said Wednesday it will closely monitor and remove accounts on the platform that promote violence, specifically those associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to the Wall Street Journal. The social-media titan said it had already removed 100 Facebook pages, more than 790 groups and 1,500 advertisements connected to QAnon.

President Trump praised the followers of QAnon Wednesday, saying that he was grateful for the support from “people that love our country,” according to the Washington Post. The FBI has labeled the QAnon movement as a domestic terrorist threat.

The Trump administration will permit individual laboratories to use coronavirus tests that have not been approved by the FDA, reports Politico.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith discussed legal reforms to better regulate political alliances between U.S. electoral campaigns and foreign countries in the context of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security featuring a discussion on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, a Government Accountability Office determination that two high-ranking Department of Homeland Security officials are unlawfully serving and the recent protests in Belarus over supposed corruption in the election of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Vera Mironova shared and discussed her interviews with foreign Islamic State women about responsibility and punishments for destructive Islamic State activities.

Barbara McQuade and Chuck Rosenberg argued the Justice Department’s differing behavior in prosecutions of FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith and of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn illustrate politically-driven hypocrisy within the department.

Howell also shared a discussion on the Lawfare Podcast with Lawfare’s Scott Anderson and Richard Gowan, the U.N. director for the crisis group, about the U.S. effort to “snapback” sanctions on Iran and how the U.N. Security Council will respond to this attempt.

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Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.

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