Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Anna Salvatore
Friday, September 18, 2020, 11:19 AM

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

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The Trump administration has announced that it will remove TikTok and WeChat from U.S. app stores on Sunday, reports The New York Times. President Trump has long expressed concern that the Chinese-owned apps will share Americans’ information with the Chinese government. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says that “for all practical purposes [WeChat] will be shut down,” but that TikTok will mainly lose the ability to update on user’s phones. The White House is awaiting a potential deal between TikTok and the American software giant Oracle, which may resolve national security concerns and potentially allow TikTok to operate as normal. For now, the Times notes, Google and Apple may sue the Trump administration for blocking the apps without a semblance of due process. Tik Tok and its parent company, ByteDance, have already sued the Trump administration for its plans to block the app. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray warned at a hearing yesterday that Russia is actively interfering in the U.S. presidential election, reports CNN. Testifying before the House Homeland Security committee, Wray said that Russia is seeking to harm the prospects of Democratic nominee Joe Biden through social media campaigns, proxies and state media.

A federal district court judge in Washington has blocked U.S. Postal Service changes that would slow mail delivery, according to Politico. Judge Stanley Bastian issued a preliminary injunction to halt the Postal Service’s new “leave behind” policy, in which trucks leave postal facilities on time even when mail has yet to be loaded into the truck. He also ruled that election mail should be treated as first-class mail. 

The White House scrapped a Postal Service plan in April to deliver reusable face masks to 650 million Americans, reports CNBC News. The plan recommended sending five masks to each residential address in the country, according to internal documents, but the Trump administration vetoed the proposal because it “might create concern or panic” about COVID-19. 

A government watchdog group has filed a complaint against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy alleging that he effectively reimbursed his associates for political donations, writes The Washington Post. Yesterday’s filing the third seeking a state or federal investigation against DeJoy in the past month alleges that DeJoy urged his former employees to donate to Republican candidates and then boosted their bonuses. In the view of the Campaign Legal Center, this kind of reimbursement violates state law and the Federal Election Campaign Act. 

China held military exercises today off the coast of Taiwan, writes BBC News. The live-fire drills amplified tensions between the two nations, especially as a U.S. undersecretary of economic affairs visited Taiwan last weekend for the memorial service of the late president Lee Teng-Hui. China claims that Taiwan is a breakaway province and resents the U.S.’s support for the island nation, with a Chinese government spokesman accusing the U.S. today of “stepping up collusion, frequently causing disturbances.” 

The inspiration for the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda says that he was kidnapped by the Rwandan government, writes The New York Times. Paul Rusesabagina, who opened his hotel to persecuted Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide, claims that he was tricked into returning to his home country last month and then jailed for charges of terrorism and murder. Rusesabagina’s supporters say that he’s under scrutiny only because he’s a critic of the Rwandan government. 

The United Nations Human Rights Council will decide today whether to back a resolution condemning the recent crackdown by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, reports Deutsche Welle. After a widely disputed August 4 election in which Lukashenko won 80% of the vote, the dictator has witnessed protests of hundreds of thousands of people. Anais Marin, the UN official overseeing the crackdown in Belarus, told the council today that his government has “abusively arrested” 10,000 people and allowed forms of torture such as rape and electrocution. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes analyzed Attorney General Bill Barr’s remarks at a Hillsdale College event on Wednesday. Anna Salvatore shared the transcript 0f his remarks as delivered and of his responses during a politically charged question and answer session.

Lester Munson shared a new episode of Fault Lines. He sat down with David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, to discuss China’s Belt and Road initiative and its trade relations with the U.S.

Bree Baccaglini, Annika Khouri, Sawyer Lucas-Griffin, Inesha Premaratne, Megan Selbach-Allen, Alex Stout and Amanda Zerbe released their report on 17 different August state elections as part of the Healthy Elections series. 

Tia Sewell shared a livestream of the House Homeland Security Committee’s hearing on worldwide threats, featuring testimony from FBI director Christopher Wray and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller. 

Colin P. Clarke and Ali Wyne assessed China and Russia’s recent actions in the Middle East. 

Jen Patja Howell posted an episode 0f The Lawfare Podcast entitled “Congress’s Control Over the Military.” Lawfare senior editor Scott R. Anderson spoke with two law professors Ashley Deeks of the University of Virginia School of Law and Zachary Price of University of California Hastings College of Law to discuss the legal limits on Congress’s authority over the military.


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Anna Salvatore is a rising freshman at Princeton University. She previously served as the editor in chief of High School SCOTUS, a legal blog written by teenagers. She is now a fall intern at Lawfare.

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