Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Wednesday, August 4, 2021, 2:14 PM

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

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President Biden called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign after the New York Attorney General found that Cuomo harassed 11 women and created a hostile work environment, according to the Washington Post. The 165-page report, which details the governor’s behavior in violation of state and federal law, is the result of a months-long investigation based on interviews with 179 people. Despite calls to resign from several party officials and the threat of impeachment, Cuomo continues to insist he never acted inappropriately, calling the report an “utterly biased investigation” that “willfully ignored evidence.” Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie said state representatives will continue their ongoing impeachment investigation “expeditiously.”

All Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to repeal two authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs) in Iraq, setting up a full Senate vote, reports Politico. The bipartisan bill would scrap AUMFs for the 1991 Gulf War and 2002 invasion to topple the Saddam Husein regime. Democrats in the Senate are expected to support the bill, and several Republicans have committed to voting in favor of it. President Biden said he also supports the repeals. If it passes, the effort will be the first repeal of a military authorization in 50 years.

Former President Donald Trump filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge the House Ways and Means Committee’s pursuit of his tax returns, which the Justice Department backed last week, according to Reuters. The committee requested Trump’s tax returns to assess how the Internal Revenue Service is auditing presidential tax returns and whether there are any issues that need to be rectified with legislation. Trump, who was the first president in decades to keep his tax returns secret, alleges that the request for his tax returns is politically motivated.

The Taliban claimed to be responsible for a Tuesday raid on the home of Afghanistan’s acting defense minister in Kabul, reports the New York Times. The attack, which began with a car bomb, lasted several hours and took eight lives. A Taliban spokesman characterized Tuesday’s attack as “the beginning of retaliatory attacks.” Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets of Kabul during the raid in support of government forces during the raid.

The Turkish government has harshly criticized the United States’ plan to resettle Afghan allies through third countries, saying the strategy will create a new regional migration crisis, according to Al Jazeera. The U.S. State Department announced Monday that interpreters that worked with American forces, U.S.-funded projects or U.S. based NGOs and media organizations would travel to Pakistan or Turkey and wait 12-14 months for their application to be processed. Turkey’s foreign ministry released a statement saying, “As Turkey, we do not accept the irresponsible decision taken by the United States without consulting our country.” President Erdogan said his officials are holding talks with their Afghan counterparts on the issue.

The trial of two Belarusian opposition figures has begun in Minsk, reports the BBC. Protest organiser Maria Kolesnikova, who ripped up her passport to resist authorities’ attempts to forcibly expel her to Ukraine, and opposition lawyer Maxim Znak have been charged with incitement to undermine national security. If found guilty, they face up to 12 years in prison. The trial comes amid a severe crackdown on political dissent led by President Alexander Lukasheno after last year’s widespread protests of a presidential election widely believed to be rigged by Lukashenko.

The World Health Organization’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, citing low vaccination rates in developing relative to wealthier ones, writes the Associated Press. A moratorium, claims Ghebreyesus, would last until September and allow more doses to be made available to those in poorer countries. Countries including Israel, France and Germany have already begun administering booster shots and the United Kingdom and the U.S. are weighing plans to do the same, in response to the spread of the delta strain COVID-19.

China has sealed off the city of Zhangjiajie after the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic, according to the Associated Press. It reported 71 new cases through local transmission today, stemming from an outbreak at the city of Nanjing’s international airport and reaching 17 provinces. Half of the cases are in the Jiangsu province, of which Nanjing is the capital. At least 40 percent of China’s population is fully vaccinated, but Chinese companies have not shared any data on how effective their vaccines have been against the virus.

Israeli authorities reported that three rockets were fired towards Israel from Lebanon and that Israeli forces shelled Lebanese territory in response, according to Al Jazeera. Witnesses in Lebanon confirmed reports of rockets fired towards Israel. The attack comes after Israel joined other countries in blaming Iran for an attack on a tanker linked to Israel that killed two, an allegation that Iran has denied. Authorities in Israel noted they were treating a few civilians suffering “stress symptoms,” while Lebanese officials have not yet reported casualties.

German police have arrested a Syrian man for alleged war crimes in Damascus, reports Deutsche Welle. Prosecutors accused the man of firing a grenade into a crowd of civilians in 2014, killing at least seven people and injuring three. According to the indictment, the suspect was a member of the Free Palestine Movement at the time of the attack and had previously belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) armed militia. President Assad’s regime had tasked PFLP-GC with controlling the Damascus neighborhood of Yarmuk. Residents had been awaiting food from a United Nations relief agency when the suspect allegedly attacked the group.

Mexico’s government sued several major U.S. gun manufacturers, claiming that loose regulations contributed to the cross-border flow of illegal firearms, reports the Washington Post. A study by the Mexican government concluded that approximately 2.5 million illegal American guns entered the country over a period of about a decade. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Boston, alleges that firearm manufacturers are aware of their impact but “continue to prioritize their economic benefit, and use marketing strategies to promote weapons that are ever more lethal, without mechanisms of security or traceability.” In addition to potentially billions of dollars in damages, the Mexican government is seeking to push manufacturers to observe stricter controls on gun sales, implement security features and participate in anti-arms trafficking campaigns, though a 2005 law largely protecting firearm manufacturers from civil liability complicates the suit.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare Editor in Chief Benjamin Wittes interviews Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman about his new book, “Here, Right Matters: An American Story.”

Ajay Sarma posted a livestream of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee’s hearing on authorizations for use of military force.

Vera Mironova discussed the lack of legal accountability for repatriated members of the Islamic State.

Sourabh Gupta examined the impact of South China Sea arbitration before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea tribunal five years after its landmark decision in Philippines v. China.

Sarma also posted a livestream of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action and Federal Rights’ hearing on executive privilege.

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.

Ajay Sarma is a junior at Harvard College studying Social Studies. He is an intern at Lawfare.
Christiana Wayne is a junior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill studying history and English. She is an intern at Lawfare.

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