Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Matt Gluck
Wednesday, December 30, 2020, 2:59 PM

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

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died Tuesday evening from coronavirus complications, reports the New York Times. Letlow, a Republican, was elected earlier this month to represent Louisiana in the House of Representatives. A doctor at the Shreveport hospital in Louisiana, Dr. G.E. Ghali, said Letlow had no underlying conditions that would have increased the likelihood he would die from Covid-19.

As it combats the fast-moving spread of the coronavirus, Britain on Wednesday became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed through a collaboration between the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University, writes France24. Concerns about the vaccine’s trial data reportedly make it unlikely that the U.S. or EU will approve the vaccine in the near future.

Several states—including Texas and Florida—are choosing to prioritize providing the first coronavirus vaccines to the elderly instead of front-line workers, according to the Washington Post. These decisions go against federal recommendations that propose putting individuals 75 and older and front-line workers in the same priority tier.

The Post also reports that President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate two former senior officials, Kathleen Hicks and Colin Kahl, to the Defense Department’s second and third highest-ranking positions. If confirmed, Hicks would be the first woman to serve as deputy defense secretary. Analysts have noted that these nominations further demonstrate the incoming administration’s commitment to filling leadership positions in government agencies with experienced officials.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley said Wednesday that he plans to object on Jan. 6 to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, according to Axios. Hawley—the first senator to pledge that he will object to the certification—baselessly contends that several states did not follow their state-level election laws. He also claims that U.S. tech giants, such as Facebook and Twitter, interfered in the election on Biden’s behalf. There is no credible evidence for these allegations.

An attack on Aden airport in Yemen Wednesday killed 13 and left many others wounded, reports Reuters. The blasts and gunfire occurred just moments after a plane landed that was carrying a new Saudi-supported cabinet for government-controlled parts of Yemen, but the cabinet members were not injured. The new cabinet will seek to fulfill a Saudi goal of ending the dispute between President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government and separatists in the south—both of which are allied with Riyadh.

After allegedly receiving consumer complaints, the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation—the country’s primary market regulator—fined the operators of three prominent e-commerce platforms including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., writes the Wall Street Journal. According to the regulator, consumers accused the platforms of increasing prices of items before offering discounts during a period of high-volume shopping in November. These fines continue China’s recent targeting of its internet sector through regulatory measures.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring a conversation with Bob Bauer, a former White House Counsel who is now leading the Biden campaign’s legal response to President Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the November election. Bauer spoke with Lawfare’s co-founder and editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes about Trump’s recent wave of pardons and the role of the current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, during the Trump administration’s unprecedented attempt to overturn the election.

Soren Dayton and Christine Kwon contended that Congress should not grant Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver exempting him from the requirement that members of the military be out of the service for seven years before serving as the Secretary of Defense. The authors also proposed reforms for the waiver process.

Bennett Clifford, Seamus Hughes and Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens argued that countering violent extremism (CVE) programs in the U.S. have so far been ineffective.

Rohini Kurup shared the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s ruling affirming legislators’ ability to request courts’ assistance to enforce the seven-member rule—a law that allows any seven members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to force the executive branch to release material related to the committee’s mandate.

Margaret Colgate Love proposed reforms to the pardon process that offer alternative avenues to granting clemency other than presidential intervention, potentially allowing the president to use the pardon authority more effectively to address flaws in the criminal justice system.

Jack Goldsmith and Matt Gluck analyzed how many of President Trump’s 94 pardons and commutations were recommended by the Justice Department’s pardon attorney.

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Matt Gluck is a former associate editor at Lawfare. He studies government and history at Dartmouth College.

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