Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 1:35 PM

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

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Justice Stephen Breyer is planning to retire after serving for over 27 years on the Supreme Court, according to the New York Times. Breyer’s retirement presents President Biden with an opportunity to appoint a new Supreme Court justice, who must be confirmed by the Senate.  In 2020, President Biden pledged to nominate a Black woman to the court, writes CNN. Biden said, “I’ll appoint the first Black woman to the court. It’s required that they have representation now — it’s long overdue.” Breyer is 83 and is the oldest member of the Supreme Court. He was nominated by former President Bill Clinton and took his seat in 1994. Justice Breyer is expected to formally announce his retirement as early as tomorrow.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and nine other co-conspirators have pleaded not guilty to seditious conspiracy and other charges for their involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, says the Washington Post. The 10 Oath Keepers are accused of plotting violence at the Capitol to disrupt the confirmation of President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Rhodes is the founder of the group and the most prominent person charged in the Justice Department’s investigation of the event thus far. Rhodes admitted he was present at the Capitol during the riot, but has said he did not enter the building and denied any wrongdoing. He said that during the attack, he was communicating with members of the far-right anti-government group to “keep them out of trouble.”

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has confirmed that the Justice Department is investigating fake electors that supported Donald Trump during the 2020 election, reports the Hill. The department is investigating fake elector certificates received by the National Archives in favor of Trump from seven states won by President Biden. Monaco reported that the department is “going to follow the facts and the law, wherever they lead, to address conduct of any kind and at any level that is part of an assault on our democracy.”

The U.S. has sent a shipment carrying 80 tons of military equipment to Ukraine, writes the Hill. The shipment is part of a $200 million lethal aid package from the Biden administration to assist Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion. A spokesperson for the Department of Defense reported that shipment included “Javelin anti-tank missiles, other anti-armor systems, grenade launchers, munitions and non-lethal equipment essential to Ukraine’s front line defenders.” 

Russia has threatened to cut off natural gas to Europe if it faces economic sanctions following an attack on Ukraine, reports the Washington Post. In response to the threat, the United States and its allies are scrambling to establish alternative energy supplies and options. Moscow has already reduced the amount of natural gas flowing into Europe which will likely cause gas prices to skyrocket. The Biden administration is in talks with major natural gas producers domestically and also in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia about their ability and willingness to “temporarily surge” their natural gas output for European buyers. 

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced the defeat of Islamic State (IS) militants at the Ghwaryan prison in Hasakah, Syria, according to the Washington Post. Earlier this week, the prison was attacked by IS forces in an attempt to free thousands of fellow fighters to replenish their military ranks. The SDF has since regained control of the prison, ending the days-long standoff that brought in U.S. ground troops to assist with fighting. It is not yet known exactly  how many inmates escaped or were killed.  

Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis is worsening as the country faces widespread hunger and a crippled economy, writes the Washington Post. More than half of the country’s population is suffering through crisis-levels of hunger. In recent months, the number of Afghans at risk of starvation has dramatically increased from 14 million to 22 million. Most international assistance to Afghanistan to address the crisis was cut off after the Taliban took control of the country last August. 

Supporters of the coup d’etat in Burkina Faso are looking to Russia for help, reports the New York Times. The morning after the coup, crowds took to the streets to celebrate the new military junta, shouting “We want a partnership with Russia … Long live Russia!” The celebration of the military take over and calls for Russian intervention have dealt a blow to France. Many Burkinabé people say French intervention in the country’s government failed to stop violence caused by Islamist militants. Members of the crowd reported that they were inspired by Russia’s intervention in the Central African Republic. One protester said “the Russians got good results in other African countries … we hope they can do the same here.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Natalie Orpett sat down with Susan Dominus and Luke Broadwater to discuss what the two learned through their reporting on Jan. 6 and what it means for ongoing efforts to respond to the attack.

Jeff Kosseff outlined how Washington’s election misinformation bill poses dangers of compromising first amendment values. 

David Priess shared an episode of the Chatter Podcast in which he talked with Martia Sturken about 9/11-related memorials, museums and architecture. 

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast in which he discussed topics ranging from law and policy for the quantum age to metadata subpoenas for WhatsApp. 

Brandon D. Fox, Keisha N. Stanford, Tessa J.G. Roberts and Annie R. Wilt analyzed the Biden administration’s national security strategy to combat corruption. 

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. Check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

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