Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Anna Salvatore
Friday, October 16, 2020, 3:28 PM

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

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Yesterday evening, the Trump administration dismissed California’s request for emergency aid for a series of record-breaking wildfires, writes the New York Times. California officials responded in fury and disbelief, with Gov. Gavin Newsom citing property damage so costly to residents that “recovery efforts remain beyond the state’s capabilities.” The Times notes that the White House’s decision last night is part of a long-running feud with California over crisis management.

U.S. intelligence agencies told the White House last year that Rudy Giuliani was being targeted by Russian influence operations, writes the Washington Post. This reflected concerns among intelligence officials that Giuliani was unknowingly feeding disinformation to the president. The Post explains that Giuliani met with several Russian intelligence assets while trying to uncover dirt on Hunter Biden during a 2019 trip to Ukraine. Upon hearing of his aide’s apparent corruption by foreign powers, the president reportedly shrugged and said, “That’s Rudy.”

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine will not be ready by Election Day, the Times also reports. Although the company has repeatedly announced its plans to finalize a vaccine by late October, Pfizer’s chief executive said in a statement today that it will be collecting safety and manufacturing data until at least the third week of November. Other late-stage vaccine trials by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are currently paused due to safety concerns.

Former Mexican Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested in Los Angeles today on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, according to Time. Mike Vigil, a former chief in the Drug Enforcement Administration, observed that today’s arrest is notable because “Mexico has always put the military on a pedestal,” and because Cienfuegos is collaborating with U.S. prosecutors, “there are others who are going to be falling” later.

The Trump administration has secured the release of two Americans captured by Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen, according to the Wall Street Journal. In return, Yemen will receive military aid and an infusion of about 200 trained Houthi fighters who were previously held in Oman.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey apologized today for the company blocking links to a widely disparaged New York Post story about Hunter Biden. Dorsey vowed in a tweet to provide context for similar decisions, writes CNBC News.

In two speeches yesterday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper called for increasing the U.S. military budget to confront rising threats in the Indo-Pacific Region. The South China Morning Post writes that Esper called for three to five percent annual real growth to confront the “near-peer rivals” of China and Russia. His comments came only a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping told marines to focus on “preparing for war” and stay “highly vigilant.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Chas Kissick wrote about the privacy issues arising from North Carolina’s efforts to contact-trace and access coronavirus testing records.

Lane Baker, Axel Hufford, Ashley Richards and Neil Wary outlined certain states’ requirements to enclose ballots in secrecy sleeves.

Shayan Karbassi discussed how the Atomic Energy Act governs U.S. actions on nuclear nonproliferation.

Jen Pata Howell shared an episode of The Lawfare Podcast featuring a conversation between Evelyn Douek and Maria Ressa, a Filipino-American journalist fighting a conviction for “cyberlibel” in the Philippines.

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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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