Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Tia Sewell
Friday, May 7, 2021, 2:49 PM

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A federal grand jury has indicted four Minneapolis police officers on charges of violating the civil rights of George Floyd, reports the New York Times. The indictment comes weeks after Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, was convicted of murder for Floyd’s death. The indictment, which was filed yesterday, charges Chauvin and other former police officers Tou Thao, Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. The charges are separate from the Justice Department’s ongoing pattern-or-practice investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, and they are separate from the state charges against the officers.

Newly declassified information shows CIA analysts uncovered evidence that members of a Taliban-linked network had been working closely with a unit of the Russian military intelligence service known for assassination operations, according to the Times. In a statement provided to the Times that was originally drafted to serve as a press resource regarding U.S. sanctions on Russia, the National Security Council wrote, “The involvement of this G.R.U. unit is consistent with Russia encouraging attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan given its leading role in such lethal and destabilizing operations abroad.” The Biden administration did not impose sanctions for the suspected Taliban bounty program, instead delivering a warning and demanding an explanation.

U.S. negotiators are entering their fourth round of indirect talks with Iran over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, writes the Washington Post. A senior State Department official told the Post that the U.S. team “think[s] that it’s doable, because it’s not rocket science, it’s not a new deal… it’s reviving one that has been undermined over the last several years.” The official noted that if Iran ceases to make “unrealistic demands” and agrees to move back into compliance, the talks can move forward and conclude “relatively quickly.”

On Thursday, India once again reported a record-breaking single-day figure of more than 412,000 new coronavirus cases, and nearly 4,000 deaths, reports the Associated Press. The country continues to struggle with the world’s fastest-growing COVID-19 surge since the pandemic began. The catastrophic rise in cases in India has renewed fears of virus outbreaks globally, as well, according to the AP. There are many other countries “that face a very fragile situation,” said World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom. “What is happening in India and Brazil could happen elsewhere unless we all take these public health precautions.”

U.S. Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command, warned that China is considering construction of a large Atlantic naval base on the western coast of Africa, writes the Hill. Townsend stated that Beijing has been discussing the establishment of a naval facility with the capacity to host aircraft carriers with countries as far north as Mauritania and as far south as Namibia. “They’re looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships,” Townsend said. “They’re a long way toward establishing that in Djibouti … Now they’re casting their gaze to the Atlantic coast and wanting to get such a base there.”

The Texas House has approved a bill that would impose new restrictions on mail-in ballots and set other new voting rules, reports the Journal. The Texas Senate previously passed its own version of election law changes. The two chambers would have to agree on a combined package before the legislation can move forward to be signed into law by Texas Gov. Greb Abbott. Yesterday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that will enact more restrictive measures on mail-in voting and ballot drop boxes. Democrats, civil rights groups and some corporations have protested against such legislation, which they claim will disenfranchise voters.

At least 24 people have died and hundreds have been wounded during clashes with security forces in Colombia as thousands have taken to the streets to protest against the government’s policies on health, education and inequality, according to France 24. Yesterday, the Columbian government invited protest leaders to engage in direct dialogue. The demonstrations have been ongoing for more than a week.

The U.S. State Department said today that Yemen’s Houthi group has “passed up a major opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to peace” by declining an invitation to meet with a U.N. mediator in Oman, writes Reuters. The department also criticized the Houthis for “exacerbating dire conditions for the already-vulnerable internally displaced Yemenis” by attacking Marib, the last northern stronghold of the Saudi-backed government in Yemen. This Wednesday, Martin Griffiths, the U.N. mediator, noted that “we are not where we would like to be in reaching a deal.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared this week’s edition of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth miniseries on the online information ecosystem, in which Benjamin Wittes sat down with Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic and Jacob Schulz to discuss the Facebook Oversight Board’s decision on the Trump suspension case.

Joshua Braver argued that the Justice Department should not pursue seditious conspiracy charges against perpetrators of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Lester Munson shared the latest episode of Fault Lines, featuring a discussion on President Biden’s acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide and its impact on U.S.-Turkish relations.

Tia Sewell shared a livestream of the House Foreign Affairs committee’s hearing on atrocities committed against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

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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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