Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Tia Sewell
Friday, April 9, 2021, 1:15 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion

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Today marks the 10th day in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, reports the New York Times. This morning, the prosecution called Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, and Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who performed an autopsy on George Floyd, to take the stand. The two experts were asked to describe the details of Floyd’s case, the role of a medical examiner and the limitations of their expertise. Baker found that Floyd’s death was a homicide caused by “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” Thomas explained that while the medical examiner’s document details “other contributing conditions” such as heart disease and the presence of drugs in Floyd’s system, these were not the cause of death in Floyd’s case. She stated that she agreed with the examiner’s autopsy conclusion and believed that the primary cause of Floyd’s death was asphyxia.

Today, the White House announced that it will create a 36-person bipartisan commission to examine the possibility of expanding the size of the Supreme Court or setting term limits for judges, according to the Times. The president’s executive order will charge the commission with a 180-day study on the court’s history, past reforms and the potential consequences of altering the number of justices on the bench. Bob Bauer, former White House counsel for President Obama, and Cristina Rodriguez, Yale Law professor who also served in the Obama administration, will lead the panel. The directive comes as activists have pushed to “pack the court”—or expand the Supreme Court’s size in order to alter its ideological balance. Following President Trump’s successful appointment of three justices to the bench, the court presently rests with a conservative 6-to-3 tilt.

The U.N.’s special envoy for Myanmar will soon begin a tour throughout Asia to step up diplomatic efforts to tackle the crisis in Myanmar, writes France 24. Myanmar’s security forces have killed at least 614 civilians and arrested nearly 3,000 since the military ousted the country’s democratically elected leadership and seized power on Feb. 1. The U.S. imposed another set of sanctions yesterday targeting Myanmar’s state gem company as Washington looks to economically pressure the junta into halting its violent crackdown on protesters.

A Chinese supercomputer used for advanced weapons research is powered by chips that use American software, reports the Washington Post. The chips are designed by a Chinese firm called Phytium Technology, which built the world’s most advanced chip factory in Taiwan. Though Phytium does not publicize its connections to the People’s Liberation Army, its products are used in a secretive hypersonic missile test facility in southwest China. The Biden administration placed Phytium and six other Chinese firms on an export blacklist yesterday in order to halt further U.S. technology transfers to the companies.

In a federal court in Seattle this week, a leader of a white-supremacist neo-Nazi group who threatened journalists and activists pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and hate-crime charges, writes the Post. Twenty-five-year-old Cameron Shea is one of the four members of an alleged white supremacist extremist group called “Atomwaffen Division” who were arrested last year for plotting to intimidate journalists by distributing threatening anti-semitic fliers to their homes.

Biden’s preliminary 2022 budget includes large increases in funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation, according to Reuters. The proposal includes a $14 billion increase in spending allotted to confronting climate change such as boosted environmental regulation and research.

The White House also plans to request $715 billion for the Pentagon in 2022, marking a modest 1.5 percent increase from the current level of the more than $704 billion that lawmakers allocated for the 2021 fiscal year, reports Politico. The plan is likely to face backlash from top GOP lawmakers who have pushed for a three to five percent increase, arguing that a higher budget is needed to adequately counter threats from China and Russia. Democrats, too, are likely to be disappointed—in a letter last month, fifty House Democrats urged Biden to request a “significantly reduced” Pentagon budget and redirect money towards diplomacy and domestic issues.

In a speech on Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned of an impending “arduous march” as the country braces for worsening economic problems, according to the Wall Street Journal. Pyongyang is grappling with several coinciding economic challenges, including U.S. sanctions, a 75 percent plunge in trade with China and summer floods, among other issues.

The U.S. will send two warships to the Black Sea next week as tensions escalate between Ukranian troops and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, reports Reuters. As Russia has amassed a large number of troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, Russia’s deputy foreign minister raised concerns today about the increasing “number of visits by NATO countries and the length of the stay of (their) warships” in the Black Sea.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes announced Lawfare’s newest podcast series, “After Trump,” based on the book “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency” by Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith.

Jen Patja Howell shared the latest edition of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth miniseries on the information ecosystem, in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Joseph Uscinski, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami, about conspiracy theories.

Justin Sherman discussed data brokerage, arguing that policymakers must first establish concrete definitions of “data brokers” in order to put appropriate privacy and security controls on the practice.

Lester Munson shared this week’s episode of Fault Lines, entitled “Revising the JCPOA and AUMF.”

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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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