Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Tia Sewell
Friday, January 22, 2021, 2:10 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced today that the House of Representatives will deliver the article of impeachment charging former President Trump with incitement of insurrection to the Senate on Monday, according to the New York Times. Once the article arrives, Senate rules require the chamber to almost immediately begin proceedings, although senators may delay the start date if they agree to alter the process. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed pushing back the start of the impeachment trial until February, citing the need to give Trump’s legal defense team at least a week to prepare. McConnell will have to convince Schumer, who is currently reviewing the proposal to delay proceedings; Schumer will make the final decision on when and how the trial will be held.

The 10 House Republicans who supported impeachment are already facing significant consequences from GOP organizers, reports Politico. “I have never seen a greater amount of backlash for any one single vote taken by any one single member of our Republican congressional delegation in Ohio,” said former Ohio state Rep. Christina Hagan of Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s affirmative vote to impeach Trump in the House last week. As noted by Politico, the unrest is indicative of an emerging division in the Republican party: Trump has split the GOP by pitting his loyalists against Republicans who have sought to distance Trump from the party after his baseless claims of a stolen election incited the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

President Biden will sign two executive orders today aimed at increasing pandemic-related food aid and speeding stimulus checks for American families, according to Reuters. Yesterday, the president signed 10 executive orders to combat the spread of the coronavirus with a strategy focused on ramping up vaccinations and implementing public-health measures such as mask wearing and expanded testing infrastructure.

Senate Republicans are unified in their opposition to Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, reports Politico. This means that Biden may have to choose between compromising for a smaller stimulus package with the GOP or pushing the White House initiative through using budget reconciliation to pass it along partisan lines—an unappealing option for a president who has repetitively called for national unity and bipartisan cooperation.

More than 400,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus and more than 24 million Americans have contracted the virus, writes NPR in an assessment of six numbers that highlight the greatest challenges the Biden administration currently faces. Among the other figures are unemployment statistics, polling about race relations in the U.S., international allies’ perceptions of the U.S. and the costs of climate-driven disasters in the country in 2020.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote an article in Foreign Affairs today urging the new U.S. administration to “choose a better path by ending Trump’s failed policy of ‘maximum pressure’ and returning to the deal his predecessor abandoned.” If Biden follows through, Zarif wrote, “Iran will likewise return to full implementation of our commitment under the nuclear deal. But if Washignton instead insists on extracting concessions, then this opportunity will be lost.”

As the Biden administration moves to take a harder stance against Russia, the Kremlin is pushing back, according to the New York Times. The Russian government is pushing to expel Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an American-funded news organization, from Russia by threatening the media outlet with multimillion-dollar fines and criminal charges for its journalists. Further, President Vladimir Putin has pledged to ignore Western calls to release Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested on Jan. 17.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing yesterday that killed at least 32 people and wounded more than one hundred others, reports BBC. This attack marks the biggest suicide attack in Iraq’s capital since IS’s military defeat in Iraq in 2017. A U.N. report published in August 2020 estimated that more than 10,000 IS fighters remain active in Iraq and Syria.

The Senate confirmed retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as Biden’s defense secretary today with a 93-to-2 vote, writes the Washington Post. Yesterday, Congress granted Austin a waiver exempting him from a law requiring that secretaries of defense have not been active in the military for at least seven years, due to concerns about ensuring civilian leadership of the Pentagon is maintained. “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as our country’s 28th Secretary of Defense, and I’m especially proud to be the first African American to hold the position,” Austin said in a statement on Twitter after his confirmation. “Let’s get to work.”

The Justice Department inspector general has opened an investigation into the sudden resignation of Byung J. Pak, the former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, according to the Post. Pak unexpectedly announced that he would step down from his position on Jan. 4 amid criticism from Trump that Georgia officials were not doing enough to find fraud in the state’s election. Trump subsequently chose and appointed a temporary replacement, prompting legal analysts to raise concern about the possibility of political interference in law enforcement work.

Google is warning that it will shut down its search engine in Australia if the country’s policy makers don’t change a proposed law that would require tech giants to pay publishers for news, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The Israeli army said that it downed a drone that originated from its border with Lebanon today, writes Reuters.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Evelyn Douek discussed Facebook’s referral of Trump’s suspension to its independent oversight board, arguing that the move could signal a substantial change in the platform’s approach to content moderation.

Jen Patja Howell shared this week’s edition of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth mini-series, an episode in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington, to discuss the current disinformation landscape and how Americans can move forward in a post-Trump world.

Lester Munson shared this week’s episode of Fault lines, entitled “From Trump t0 Biden with David Adesnik and John Hannah.”

Tia Sewell and Victoria Gallegos shared President Biden’s actions taken so far to confront the coronavirus pandemic.

Sewell posted executive actions related to the Biden administration’s immigration policy.

Sewell also shared an executive order signed by Biden establishing his administration’s commitment to immediately confronting the climate crisis with policy guided by science.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Tia Sewell is a former associate editor of Lawfare. She studied international relations and economics at Stanford University and is now a master’s student in international security at Sciences Po in Paris.

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