Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Thursday, May 19, 2022, 1:40 PM

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

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Subscribe to receive this newsletter directly to your inbox.

The first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes in Ukraine admitted to killing an unarmed civilian, reports the Wall Street Journal. In Ukraine’s first war crimes trial since the start of Russia’s invasion, Vadim Shishimarin confessed to shooting and killing an unarmed 62-year-old man in the Ukrainian town of Chupakhivka. The trial will likely continue over the next few days as Ukraine’s prosecutors and Shishimarin’s attorneys argue whether or not the shooting can be classified as a war crime. If Shishimarin is found guilty, he faces a potential sentence of life in prison. 

Ukrainian authorities have brought war crimes charges against two other Russian soldiers, writes the Washington Post. Prosecutors allege that the two soldiers worked together to target Ukrainian civilians in the Kharkiv region using a truck-mounted rocket launcher. One defendant allegedly drove the truck while the other operated the rocket launcher to fire at civilians. 

President Biden officially endorsed Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO, according to the New York Times. Biden pledged that while their applications to the alliance are being considered, the U.S. will work with Finland and Sweden to help protect against any threats to the nations’ shared security. Biden also emphasized that the U.S. will assist Finland and Sweden to “deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression.”

The Justice Department submitted a request to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol for transcripts from closed-door interviews conducted by the panel, according to the New York Times. The House committee—which does not have the ability to prosecute suspected individuals involved in the attack—has reportedly conducted more than 1,000 closed-door interviews so far in their investigation. According to the Times, the Justice Department is planning to potentially use the transcripts as evidence to pursue potential criminal cases or new leads in investigations into those involved with the attack on Jan. 6. Aides to representatives on the panel have not yet reached an agreement with the Justice Department about what and how much material will be shared. 

President Biden traveled to Asia on Thursday to meet with allies in South Korea and Japan, writes CNN. In his first trip to the continent as president, Biden reportedly intends to work on strengthening alliances amid global instability exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In Seoul, Biden will meet with South Korea’s newly elected president, and in Tokyo he will attend bilateral talks with the Japanese prime minister as well as other leaders from Japan, Australia and India. In the meetings, Biden is expected to address growing nuclear threats from North Korea and will attempt to expand economic cooperation, particularly in the production of advanced technology.

The Justice Department charged one U.S. citizen and four Chinese intelligence officers with espionage, reports Reuters. According to the indictment, New York City resident Wang Shujun worked with China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) to unlawfully collect information about Chinese dissidents, human rights leaders and pro-democracy activists living in the United States. The four MSS officials named in the indictment—Feng He, Jie Ji, Ming Li and Keqing Lu—remain at-large. Wang is in police custody. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast that featured a conversation between Quinta Jurecic, Roger Parloff and Jonathan David Shaub about the contempt prosecution of Steve Bannon. 

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared an episode of the National Security Law Podcast in which they discussed the leak(s) associated with the Supreme Court’s Dobbs case and what a war-crimes analysis might entail as applied to operation Russia’s GRU conducted to shut down Ukraine’s grid during the period after the occupation of Crimea but before the current invasion.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk which featured a conversation with Erich Schwartzel about the world of Chinese cinema, Chinese movies abroad and China in Hollywood.

Myroslav Laiuk discussed the Crimean Tatar deportation and other genocides committed by Russia in Ukraine. 

Bryce Klehm posted the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s interim report on the collapse of Afghan Security Forces. 

Klehm also posted the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General’s report on reprisals against Col. Yevgeny Vindman. 

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which Jurecic, Alan Rozenshtein,  and Scott R. Anderson were joined by Klehm to discuss the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and the House select committee investigating Jan. 6’s decision to subpoena five House Republicans.

Katherine Pompilio posted a complaint filed by a group of Wisconsin voters against twelve individuals who allegedly conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Rohini Kurup posted a complaint filed by the Justice Department seeking to compel casino mogul and Republican megadonor Steve Wynn to register as an agent of the Chinese government.

Kurup also posted the superseding indictment of Thomas Barrack, a former adviser to former President Trump, which includes new claims of his alleged efforts to attempt to influence the Trump campaign and administration under the direction of United Arab Emirates officials.

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.

Subscribe to Lawfare