Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Friday, April 8, 2022, 2:50 PM

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Over 30 people—including children—were killed in Kramastork, Ukraine after Russian forces executed a missile strike on a railway used to evacuate refugees, reports CNN. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy reported that in addition to the 30 deaths, over 300 people waiting to evacuate by train were injured in the strike. Zelenksyy spoke of the attack when he addressed the Finnish parliament, saying “Why do they need to hit civilians with missiles? Why this cruelty that the world has witnessed in Bucha and other cities liberated by the Ukrainian army?"

Members of NATO agreed to supply Ukraine with more advanced weaponry to assist in its fight against Russia, writes the Financial Times. The decision to provide Ukraine with additional lethal aid came at the request of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba who reported that Ukraine was in need of aircraft, missiles, armored vehicles and air defense systems to prepare for a renewed military offensive by Russian forces in the eastern part of the country. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss reported that “There was support for countries to supply new and heavier equipment to Ukraine, so that they can respond to these new threats from Russia. And we agreed to help Ukrainian forces move from their Soviet-era equipment to Nato standard equipment, on a bilateral basis.”

The U.S. issued restrictions on technology and industrial goods exports to Russia in an effort to target Russia’s defense and technology industries, according to the Wall Street Journal. Three Russian airlines—Aeroflot, Azur Air and UTair—are now prohibited from accessing U.S.-made parts or services. The U.S.Commerce Department issued these new restrictions after it was reported that the three airlines violated export control laws by flying U.S.-made aircraft or other aircraft that contained U.S.-made parts. The airlines were reportedly using these aircraft to conduct flights within Russia and also to and from other countries such as China, India and Turkey without a license required by the United States. 

Microsoft announced that it prevented Russian cyberattacks on Ukrainian computer systems and other organizations in the U.S. and Europe, reports the Hill. The planned hacks were reportedly executed by a Russian group known as Strontium and were intended to target Ukrainian media organizations and private foreign policy-related institutions within the U.S. and the E.U. Microsoft’s corporate vice president reported that he believed Strontium was “attempting to establish long-term access to the systems of its targets, provide tactical support for the physical invasion and exfiltrate sensitive information.” Microsoft was reportedly able to stop the attacks after a court order granted it access to the online domains being used by Strontium to carry out the hacks.  

A federal judge ruled to dismiss a Defense Department restriction that barred HIV-positive service members from becoming officers and deploying in active duty outside of the United States, writes the Hill. Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia issued the rulings in favor of three service members in two different cases. In the first case, two service members sued after being discharged from the Air Force because they were banned from overseas deployment due to their HIV positive status. Judge Brinkema ruled that the Defense Department is prohibited from separating or discharging the service members “with an undetectable viral load.”  In the other case, a service member sued because he was denied from applying to commission as a military lawyer with the Judge Advocate General Corps. Brinkema further ruled that the applications of HIV positive individuals to be considered as officers are also not to be rejected simply because of an applicant’s HIV status. 

The Justice Department has initiated an investigation into presidential records unlawfully removed from the White House by former President Trump, according to the Washington Post. The records—some even labeled “top secret”— were found in the possession of the former president at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. The investigation is reportedly in early stages so it is not yet clear if officials have begun sifting through the records or conducting interviews with potential witnesses.

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan to hold former President Trump in contempt for failing to cooperate with requests for documents in her civil investigation into Trump’s business practices, reports the New York Times. James’s motion provides that Trump refused to turn over documents requested by James in eight separate attempts. In addition to holding the former president in contempt, James’s filing also asks the Manhattan judge to fine Trump $10,000 a day until he agrees to hand over the requested materials. According to the filing, Trump’s legal team dismissed the information requests stating that they were “grossly over-broad, unintelligible, unduly burdensome,” and did not “adequately” describe the materials sought by the N.Y. attorney general. In response to the filing, Trump referred to James’s investigation as “witch hunt” and as “an attempt to silence a president who is leading in every single poll.” 

The leader of the North Carolina chapter of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct Congress for his participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, writes Politico. After reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors, Charles Donoahue pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and also to an additional charge of impeding police officers. Donoahue is reportedly responsible for running the Proud Boys’ Telegram communications channels that were used to coordinate activities. He also worked to organize the group’s presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Officials suspect that his cooperation with the Justice Department is likely to provide federal investigators a high-value source of information about the activities of the Proud Boys before, on and after Jan. 6.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Will Oremus about how the press and social media platforms handled the Hunter Biden laptop story.

David Priess shared an episode of the Chatter Podcast in which he sat down with Eugene Linden to discuss climate change and how the insurance industry can potentially lessen the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. 

Alan Z. Rozenshtein explained how seditious conspiracy currently serves as a substitute for the domestic terrorism statute. 

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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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