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The Morning Dispatch: Giuliani Source Sanctioned for Election Interference
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The Morning Dispatch: Giuliani Source Sanctioned for Election Interference

Plus, remembering 9/11, 19 years later.

Welcome to Friday. Nineteen years ago, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the United States, killing more than 3,000 individuals in four horrific hijackings, crashing planes in New York, northern Virginia and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. May we never forget those attacks and the innocent lives they ended.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The United States confirmed 37,819 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, with 6.08 percent of the 622,518 tests reported coming back positive. An additional 985 deaths were attributed to the virus on Thursday, bringing the pandemic’s American death toll to 191,769.

  • The Senate’s latest coronavirus relief package—characterized as a “skinny” package by Republicans—failed to pass the Senate in the face of Democratic (and Rand Paul’s) opposition. Democrats criticized the bill as insufficient, pushing for much larger spending. 

  • More than 1,000 Chinese students studying in the United States have had their visas revoked following a May White House declaration that Chinese nationals suspected of having ties to the military had engaged in espionage in the United States.

  • Massive wildfires continued to rage across California, as the skies in many parts of the state have taken on an eerie orange hue because of ash rising in the atmosphere.

  • A panel of three federal judges in New York ruled that President Trump’s order blocking people in the country illegally from being counted for the purpose of drawing congressional districts was itself illegal.

  • Microsoft issued a warning yesterday that the Russian intelligence unit responsible for infiltrating the Democratic National Committee in 2016 has continued to intensify its efforts since, and is now targeting a range of Republican and Democratic campaigns, consultants, and think tanks in the lead-up to this November’s election. China has been active, too, but contrary to recent intelligence assessments suggesting Beijing preferred a Joe Biden victory in November, China has focused its efforts on Biden associates, with only one known attempt on a Trump-related official.

Treasury Sanctions Giuliani Source

As the federal government continues to fight back against Russian election interference this year, the Treasury Department on Thursday issued sanctions against four “Russia-linked individuals” who they said were “attempting to influence the U.S. electoral process.” The most notable individual of the bunch was Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian MP who Treasury says made use of “edited audio tapes and other unsupported information” to wage a “covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, spurring corruption investigations in both Ukraine and the United States designed to culminate prior to election day.” The Treasury Department describes Derkach as an “active Russian agent.”

What were those false and unsubstantiated narratives? Accusations of conspiracy and corruption in Ukraine that Derkach has long made against—though they are not named in the report—Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Derkach has long accused the former vice president and his son of extorting millions of dollars from Ukraine via Burisma, the energy company operating in Ukraine on whose board Hunter Biden formerly sat.

Even if you haven’t heard of Derkach (he’s been a player in Ukraine news for the last year or so), that narrative probably rings a bell. That’s because it’s extremely similar to unfounded accusations President Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and their media allies were leveling against Biden throughout the winter impeachment season, as revelations about the president’s quid-pro-quo diplomacy with Ukraine were rapidly leading toward his impeachment. Trump and Giuliani made it no secret that they were making these accusations as part of their best-defense-is-a-good-offense approach to dealing with that scandal.

The anti-Biden efforts in the White House and in Ukraine weren’t just coincidental fellow-travelers. Last December, Giuliani met with Derkach while on a trip to Ukraine to try to dig up dirt on Biden. Hours after the meeting, Giuliani was tweeting about how “impeachment is a FARCE” because “the conversation about corruption in Ukraine was based on compelling evidence of criminal conduct by then VP Biden, in 2016, that has not been resolved.”

Giuliani was still hyping Derkach’s “investigation” as recently as this May, with the occasional boost from the likes of the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr.

Around the same time, Politico reported earlier this summer, Derkach was mailing oppo packets containing attacks against Biden to prominent Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Devin Nunes and Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, as well as to then-White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. (Graham and Grassley said they did not receive the packets.)

Several members of President Trump’s Cabinet hailed the Treasury action against Derkach on Thursday as a victory for national security. “Andriy Derkach and other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added a statement of his own: “The United States will not hesitate to use all tools of national power to respond to foreign actors that seek to interfere in or otherwise influence our elections by any means.”

The Ongoing Brexit Snarl

James Sutton has a new piece up on the site today breaking down Britain’s latest negotiating headache, this time over the trade relationship Britain will enjoy with both Northern Ireland and the EU once the separation’s transition period ends at the end of the year:

Right now, the British government is signaling its willingness to violate international law by attempting to pass a law, called the Internal Market Bill, that would override three parts of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal agreement with the EU: the requirement of customs checks on goods passing from Northern Ireland into Britain, restrictions on state subsidies to favored industries, and the application of EU judicial decisions (known as direct effect) in Northern Ireland. 

In remarks addressed to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis spoke about a new bill the government plans to unveil: “Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way. We’re taking the powers to disapply the EU law concept of direct effect … in a certain very tightly defined circumstance.”

The trouble springs from the fact that Northern Ireland, the six counties on the island of Ireland that are part of the U.K., exists in a weird penumbral zone under the 2019 U.K./EU withdrawal agreement: In an attempt to avoid splitting the island with a hard international border, the two negotiating sides agreed on an arrangement wherein Northern Ireland enjoys certain privileges of both U.K. and EU membership. Under the so-called “Northern Ireland protocol,” Northern Ireland will remain within the EU “common market,” continuing to enforce EU customs rules and follow its product standards rules, allowing it to continue trading freely with EU member state Ireland. 

At the same time, Northern Ireland remains in the U.K.’s customs territory—free to trade tariff-free with Britain and included in any future trade agreements the U.K. makes with other countries.

But in order to prevent Northern Ireland from simply becoming a backdoor for tariff-free U.K.-EU trade, defeating the purpose of the common market altogether, the protocol also stipulates several checks. Goods coming from the U.K. to Northern Ireland that are considered to be “at risk” of being subsequently moved to the EU are subject to EU tariffs. And goods traveling from Northern Ireland to the U.K.—and thus leaving the EU common market—are subject to EU customs checks.

It’s these checks that the latest British maneuver seeks to override. In essence, the U.K. is attempting to have their cake and eat it too: After breaking from the EU and agreeing to a permeable trade barrier between Ireland and Northern Ireland, they are now unilaterally attempting to declare the Northern Ireland-Britain trade barrier permeable too. 

It’s a mess on several international fronts: 

The bill would also threaten to reinstate a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland—potentially bringing back the security checkpoints and customs outposts removed as part of the 1998 Good Friday peace treaty, albeit in a much reduced form. 

For its part, the EU issued an ultimatum Thursday, stating that the U.K. must withdraw the bill “by the end of the month” or risk legal action and the scuppering of trade talks. 

Passage of the Internal Market Bill could also harm U.S.-U.K. trade: Speaker Nancy Pelosi has threatened that any undermining of the Good Friday agreement would mean that “there would be absolutely no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress.”

The ongoing headaches, James writes, underscore the tension that’s always been at the heart of Brexit: 

Johnson, who argued for Brexit as the beginning of a dynamic “Global Britain,” made his name as a member of the decidedly neoliberal Leave faction. These Leavers, who supported Brexit as a way to increase economic competitiveness along with British sovereignty, look increasingly mistaken, as their argument was always at least somewhat dependent on preferential access to the common market. 

 Johnson, like Theresa May before him, has been unable to untie the British Gordian knot: The desire to have access to the common market along with the ability to set their own economic and immigration rules. Increasingly, it seems like Britain will be forced to concede the former to achieve the latter, a sign of what were really the most powerful forces behind the Leave campaign’s victory. 

Worth Your Time

  • There were many sudden heroes on September 11, 2001. Rick Rescorla was one of them. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Rescorla defied orders from building security to lead hundreds of terrified World Trade Center workers to safety that morning. His actions, described in this recollection, continue to inspire.

  • Among the many searing images that stand out in our memories from the attacks 19 years ago, perhaps the most haunting is a photograph that would become known as “The Falling Man.” Photographer Richard Drew calls it a “very quiet photograph,” and recalls his day in this short video.

  • Washington Post data guru and friend of The Dispatch David Byler has a great new piece up examining a sometimes overlooked 2020 possibility: What if Joe Biden wins in a huge landslide? If Biden “turns out voters in numbers that give him a huge victory, they may well elect a Congress and state officials eager and able to enact a sweeping progressive agenda.” Byler writes that “This election is often cast as a straightforward choice” between making Trumpism permanent and “a return to Obama-era normalcy.” But “It isn’t that simple. A stinging rebuke to Trump and the desire to heal the nation may not be compatible—especially with Biden’s campaign relying on the most progressive platform in modern history to excite voters.” 

  • Over at National Review, Joseph S. Laughon has done yeoman’s work breaking down the latest received progressive wisdom about the anti-abortion movement: namely, that pro-lifers oppose abortion not because they believe it to be murder, but because “they are operating from a false consciousness, hiding their real motive, racism.” “The narrative is simple,” he writes. “American Evangelicals never were pro-life and were in fact quite pro-choice until, losing their apparent battle in favor of segregation, they decided (for reasons never fully explained) to turn against abortion in their presumed quest for political power.” The piece breaks down and refutes the account at length.

  • Across the pond at The New Statesman, former Boris Johnson adviser Tim Montgomerie advocates for a new alliance of democracies. Called the D10 and composed of the existing G7 plus India, South Korea, and Australia, this group would be designed to be a looser institution than the U.N., relying less on unanimity and more on smaller goals of limited agreement primarily oriented toward checking Russia and China. 

Presented Without Comment

If you don’t understand this headline, we recommend counting your blessings and scrolling on by without inquiring further.

Toeing the Company Line

  • Dispatch Live is back! Come hang out with Sarah, Jonah, Steve, and David to ask your questions and chat this upcoming Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET. Your Morning Dispatchers will be lurking in the chat too. (If you’re just catching up thanks to our fabulous free trial, take it from us: You won’t want to miss it!)

  • In The Dispatch’s ongoing “Biden Agenda” series, economist Abby McCloskey examines Joe Biden’s proposed policies concerning aid to working families. Splitting the campaign’s proposed legislation into the three areas of childcare, parental leave, and taxation and work, McCloskey writes that Biden’s “proposals touch on areas very much in need of reform and are comprehensive, but they often veer too far left,” concluding that more targeted measures requiring less taxation should be the aim of policymakers.

  • Jonah has a new column up at the website, exploring how the definition of “centrism” has changed from being defined by policy positions to being defined by one’s position on President Trump. He argues that this is partly due to the rise of the “authoritarian disposition,” not related to ideology but to a desire to control social and economic change by “imposing orthodoxy on everyone”—often by demanding unswerving fealty or opposition to the President. 

Let Us Know

Nineteen years after the 9/11 attacks changed the world, we observe the day today under dramatically different circumstances than on any previous anniversary of the attacks. Do you plan to commemorate the occasion today, and if so, how?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), James P. Sutton (@jamespsuttonsf), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Photograph by Petro Zhuravel/Wikimedia Commons.