Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Ajay Sarma
Friday, August 13, 2021, 4:14 PM

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


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A judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia declined to overturn the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium, reports The Hill. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium, an extension of an earlier federal eviction moratorium, suspends evictions until early October. When Judge Dabney Friedrich blocked an older version of the moratorium in May, a D.C. Circuit federal appellate court stayed her ruling and the Supreme Court affirmed this, though Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion suggested that Congress would have to pass new legislation to extend the moratorium past Jul. 31. The Biden administration decided to renew the moratorium unilaterally at the beginning of this month, leading to a renewed appeal from landlords in the D.C. district court, which Friedrich rejected because the Supreme Court opinion was different from the D.C. appellate court’s opinion, but it did not overturn that court’s indefinite stay on her original ruling.

Kandahar and Herat, two of Afghanistan’s largest cities, have fallen to the Taliban, according to the Associated Press. The Islamist militants now are in control of half of the country’s 34 provincial capitals and more than two-thirds of the country’s territory, with the Afghan government retaining control of Kabul, the capital, and Mazar-i-Sharif, a large city in the north of the country. The Taliban is battling government forces in the Logar province, 50 miles from Kabul, meaning that the city could be under threat of a Taliban offensive very soon. The U.S. estimates that Kabul could face a Taliban attack within 30 days and that the militants could take over the rest of the country in a matter of months.

The United Nations is requesting that Afghanistan’s neighboring countries not shut their borders as civilians flee the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country, reports the BBC. Thousands are fleeing to Kabul, possibly including around 72,000 children, as the World Food Programme warns of an impending humanitarian disaster due to food shortages. Amid the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and fighting between the Taliban and government forces, the UN estimates that more than 1,000 civilians were killed just in the past month.

Nine moderate House Democrats told Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that they will not vote for the budget resolution approving $3.5 trillion for social programs passed by the Senate if a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, also passed by the Senate, is not first passed by the House and signed into law, writes the New York Times. Nine Democratic holdouts would be enough to block the budget blueprint in the House. This stance is essentially inverse of the one taken by most members of the House Progressive Caucus, which is that they would not support the infrastructure bill without the $3.5 trillion social spending package. The House will return from its recess and consider the budget resolution during the week of Aug. 23.

Russia has declined to renew the visa of BBC reporter Sarah Rainsford, who is based in Moscow, in what the news outlet is calling a “direct assault on media freedom.” Russian state media reported that the move was retaliation for the UK not granting visas to Russian journalists and that Rainsford would have to leave by the end of the month.

The United States imposed new sanctions on Friday on an Omani businessman and companies related to him that it alleges are involved in oil smuggling that backs Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reports Al Jazeera. The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control believes that the businessman, Mahmood Rashid Amur Al Habsi, is an oil broker facilitating the shipment of Iranian petroleum, which funds the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, designated by the Trump administration as a terrorist organization.

Representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro refused to meet with a delegation from the opposition in Mexico if an ambassador to the U.S. for opposition leader Juan Guaidó remains on the delegation, according to Al Jazeera. The representatives for the Venezuelan government insisted that Carlos Vecchio either leave the delegation or abandon his post as ambassador, as Maduro’s government does not recognize the shadow government established by Guaidó. The opposition delegation rejected the demands. The two opposing factions were expected to begin three days of talks and sign a memorandum of understanding that addressed foreign aid, human rights, sanctions and upcoming elections.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared the latest episode of the Arbiters of Truth podcast in which Quinta Jurecic spoke with Heidi Tworek, an associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and History at the University of British Columbia, about a recent essay in which she argued that history may provide clues to managing misinformation and disinformation.

Lindsay Wiley and Steve Vladeck argued that vaccine mandates can withstand constitutional challenges, as evinced by precedents set before the pandemic.

Abby Lemert and Eleanor Runde discussed China’s latest tech crackdown and the country’s pivot away from internet-based services as an economic focus and new COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, in addition to other news, in this week’s installment of SinoTech.

Ajay Sarma shared a memorandum opinion from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that allows Rep. Devin Nunes’s defamation suit against the Washington Post to proceed.

Sarma also shared an opinion from the D.C. District Court that blocks a House Oversight Committee subpoena for Trump’s financial records held by an accounting firm, except for requisitioned documents related to Trump’s lease agreement for the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. and records from 2017 and 2018 to investigate potential violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause.

Sarma also shared an opinion from the D.C. District Court that declines to dismiss Dominion’s defamation lawsuits against Sidney Powell and her firm, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Lindell and his company My Pillow.

Bobby Chesney and Vladeck shared the latest episode of the National Security Law Podcast in which they discuss AUMF reform, Presidential Policy Guidance related to the use of lethal force outside areas of active hostilities, unanimous panels in courts-martial and more.

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Ajay Sarma is a junior at Harvard College studying Social Studies. He is an intern at Lawfare.

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