Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Tuesday, February 1, 2022, 2:26 PM

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

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Senate Democrats have drafted legislation that would reform the Electoral Count Act, writes the Hill. The changes to the 1887 election law would clarify that the vice president’s role in overseeing the formal counting of the Electoral College vote is ceremonial. Lawmakers are seeking to reform the Electoral Count Act after then-President Trump and his allies sought to exploit the law to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Trump was more directly involved than previously known in plans to use national security agencies to seek evidence of fraud to overturn President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, according to the New York Times. Trump allegedly directed his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally gain control of voting machines in key swing states. Giuliani then called the acting deputy secretary of homeland security who said he lacked the authority to audit or impound the machines. Trump directed Giuliani to make the phone call shortly after rejecting suggestions from advisers to have the Defense Department take control of the machines. The proposals involving the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon were both codified in draft executive orders by advisers. 

The former chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence testified before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in response to a subpoena, reports CNN. Marc Short was allegedly with Pence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and participated in a “critical” White House meeting on Jan. 4. The select committee views Short as a potentially crucial witness in the investigation into Trump’s efforts to convince Pence not to certify the 2020 election. Short’s testimony is the most significant signal to date of the Pence team’s willingness to cooperate with the investigation.

At least 13 historically black colleges and universities recieved bomb theats on the first day of Black History Month, leading many to go into lockdown and postpone classes, according to CNN. The bomb threats are being investigated by federal law enforcement in cooperation with local and state police. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will publicly address tensions with the West regarding the growing concerns about Russian military aggression toward Ukraine, writes the Washington Post. Putin is expected to hold a joint press conference in Moscow with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. A spokesperson for the Kremlin reported that Putin will address Russia’s demands that the U.S. and NATO will not expand the alliance to include Ukraine. 

Putin is expected to travel to China to meet with President Xi Jinping ahead of the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Beijing, reports the Washington Post. The meeting calls attention to the partnership between Russia and China, which the countries see as key to countering a world “dominated by the U.S.” The two leaders are expected to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and other issues in what officials are calling “a major event for international relations.” The State Department has called on Beijing to use its influence on Moscow to advocate for a diplomatic solution to the Russian military buildup along the Ukrainian border. 

Venezuelans taken into custody along the southern border of the United States will be sent to Colombia under a Biden administration plan to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to Reuters. A record number of Venezuelans have migrated to the U.S. in recent months, reports the Washington Post. U.S. Customs and Border Protections reportedly stopped 24,819 Venezuelan migrants in December 2021, which is a sharp increase from the 206 migrants they stopped a year earlier. The Department of Homeland Security reported that the migrants are to be expelled from the U.S. to Colombia under a pandemic-era authority known as Title 42. The Trump-era rule kept by the Biden administration allows for authorities to bypass immigration proceedings without providing asylum seekers with an opportunity to seek protection under U.S. law. 

The military junta in Myanmar has threatened sedition and terrorism charges for any person who participates in a “silent strike” planned for the one-year anniversary of the country’s military coup d’etat, writes the New York Times. To participate in the silent strike protesting the military coup, people were urged by activists to stay in their homes, close their shops and halt all activity for six hours. The military junta received word of the silent strike and distributed leaflets threatening the aforementioned charges in addition to incitement and violating the electronic communications law. Multiple citizens have already been arrested by police. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Jacob Schulz and Quinta Jurecic spoke with John Ganz about the political crises of the French Third Republic and how they compare to modern day issues in American politics.

Jack Goldsmith and Oona Hathaway explored the legal foundation of the U.S. government’s prepublication review process.

Natalie K. Orpett posted a job announcement for the role of managing editor here at Lawfare.

Ryan Scoville explained the background and key provisions of the Department of State Authorization Act of 2021. 

Katherine Pompilio posted a livestream of the U.N. Security Council Emergency Session on Russian Military Aggression Toward Ukraine. 

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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