Early Edition: November 5, 2020

A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours.

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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

US ELECTIONS: PROTESTS, SECURITY, DISINFORMATION, AND LAWSUIT CHALLENGES

Riots and protests yesterday swept across the US — including New York, Minneapolis and Portland — with calls for all ballots to be counted in response to President Trump’s expected lawsuit challenges.In Minneapolis, freeways were blocked, leading to multiple arrests; Portland saw hundreds take to the streets, confronting police officers and National Guard members, over ballot-counting and police brutality and racial justice. New York, which initially saw peaceful demonstrations, turned particularly chaotic, with over 60 protesters “kettled” and arrested. In Phoenix, around 150 Trump supporters, some armed, amassed outside the county recorder’s office, which is responsible for counting votes, arguing that counting was not being properly overseen, although no evidence supports their concerns. Pro-Trump supporters also gathered in Detroit to call for ballot-counting to stop. Anti-racial injustice protests also gathered traction in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere. Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Simon Romero report for the New York Times.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) told prosecutors yesterday that armed federal agents are permitted in ballot-counting centers to investigate potential voter fraud, according to three people who saw and described the email, with the department arguing that the law banning armed federal officers from being present at polling station on Election Day does not apply after this date, according to DOJ Associate Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, who was responsible for sending the email. The legislation “does not prevent armed federal law enforcement persons from responding to, investigate, or prevent federal crimes at closed polling places or at other locations where votes are being counted,” Donoghue posited. Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.

The Trump campaign is set to file multiple lawsuits, for numerous reasons, challenging the election results — including in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Nevada — with efforts to take some of their challenges to state supreme courts, or even the US Supreme Court. A comprehensive breakdown of each lawsuit’s rationale, which mainly center around stopping the vote count, or the handling of mail-in ballots, is provided by Jane C. Timm for NBC News.

A Republican-led lawsuit challenging “cured” ballots in Pennsylvania received raised eyebrows from a federal judge yesterday. The suit intends to challenge a practice that allows Montgomery County to permit voters to fix, or “cure,” mail-in ballots that had been incorrectly completed or packaged. “I’m not sure about that,” District Court Judge Timothy Savage said, adding, “Is that exactly what was said or is what was said was that there is no mandatory requirement that the election board do that?….Wasn’t the legislative intent of the statute we are talking about to franchise, not disenfranchise, voters?” Katherine Landergan and Josh Gerstein report for POLITICO.

Although Trump has touted he will challenge the election result and ballot-counting in the US Supreme Court, his campaign aides have other intentions, namely taking their fight to state courts, as was always the plan, with some Republicans saying Trump does not know what he is calling for. “He just doesn’t know how it works,” said one Republican close to the White House, adding, “It’s just out of ignorance of the process.” Anita Kumar reports for POLITICO.

Whether the US Supreme Court will actually intervene in Trump’s election challenges, and whether it would help even if it did, is explored by Josh Gerstein for POLITICO, who states that only the Pennsylvania challenge to ballot-counting deadlines could end up at the nation’s highest court.

District Judge Emmet Sullivan yesterday urged — again — for the US Postal Service to ensure all remaining ballots are delivered, and threatened to call Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify over why the service had failed to action and complete Sullivan’s court order calling for a sweep of undelivered ballots by Tuesday 3 p.m. David Shepardson reports for Reuters.

Election officials from North Carolina, which has 15 electoral votes, suggested yesterday that voting totals were not expected for more than a week as mail-in ballot continue to be received and counted.“With very few exceptions, North Carolina’s election results will not change until Nov. 12 or 13, when all mail-in ballots are received and counted by each county,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the state Board of Elections, told reporters yesterday. Reuters reporting

Tens of thousands of military absentee ballots are likely among those not yet counted in key swing states Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada and Georgia. In Georgia, such ballots, many of which may be coming from overseas, have until Friday to arrive; in the other three states, they have until next week. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.

Delays in vote-counting could lead to spates of disinformation efforts, particularly from foreign adversaries, warned Democratic lawmakers. Top Senate Intelligence Committee members Sens. Mark Warner (VA) and Marco Rubio (FL) both expressed deep concern that foreign adversaries could use the coming days to amplify disinformation campaigns, many of which stem from Trump’s comments, and undermine the election’s legitimacy. Rebecca Klar and Maggie Miller report for The Hill.

Trump, his son Eric and top campaign members yesterday trumpeted a series of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the ballot-tallying process, suggesting that Democrats were rigging the final count. Trump’s son posted a video on Twitter, sourced to an account linked to far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, that alleged to show someone burning ballots cast for his father, although such was quickly disproved as sample ballots, with the platform quickly suspending the original account that posted the video. Eric, along with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, also posted on Twitter that Trump had already won the vote in Pennsylvania, again without evidence, which prompted Twitter to add warning labels. Further, Trump’s campaign spokesperson, Tim Murtaugh, claimed that crowd control at a processing station in Detroit was an effort to frustrate Trump’s chances of reelection. Facebook also stressed that counting was still very much underway. Isaac Stanley-Becker, Tony Romm, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Drew Harwell report for the Washington Post.

Trump’s claims of election rigging were heavily criticized yesterday by the leader of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)’s short-term observer mission. OSCE monitors elections throughout Western countries and the former Soviet Union, and made clear yesterday that there was no evidence to support claims of election fraud. Michael Georg Link, who led the U.S.-related mission, denounced Trump for making “baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies” which would “harm public trust in democratic institutions.” Urszula Gacek, head of OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission said: “The enormous effort made by election workers, supported by many engaged citizens, ensured that voters could cast their votes despite legal and technical challenges.” Al Jazeera reporting.

Fake Twitter accounts of US news outlets yesterday falsely claimed a victory for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, accounts that seem to be part of a coordinated effort to sow disinformation. Twitter acted promptly to suspend the accounts, which had fake logos and account names purporting to be the Associated Press and CNN. Dustin Volz, Rob Barry and Jenny Strasburg report for the Wall Street Journal.

Twitter also placed warnings on posts by top Democrats and supporters — including Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler and Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress — who falsely and prematurely claimed Biden had won the election. Cristiano Lima reports for POLITICO.

Democrats have urged both Twitter and Facebook to up their efforts to limit disinformation stemming from Trump, claiming that although the platforms were taking steps to flag and add warnings to content, their efforts were not enough and had allowed messages to gain unwarranted traction. Steven Overly reports for POLITICO.

“Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud undermine US credibility overseas,” argues James Griffiths for CNN.

Live updates and analysis on the US Elections 2020 at the New York Times, Washington Post, POLITICO, CNN and NBC News.

US DEVELOPMENTS

The Department of Defense (DOD)’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has shelved an audit of bias in military rank to instead probe President Trump’s September order banning diversity training programs. Theresa Hull, Assistant Inspector General for Audit, announced in a memorandum letter Oct. 27 that the audit would be terminated, adding, that a new project was to be announced that would focus on Trump’s Sept. 22 Executive Order 13950, ‘Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.’ Kaelan Deese reports for The Hill.

The Pentagon is planning to open a new school aimed at training personnel to stop drone threats, according to a report last week by Defense News, which reported that Lt. Col. David Morgan with the Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Office’s requirements and capabilities division had confirmed Oct. 30 there is currently no such program. “Every service is executing service-specific training. The average soldier, airman or Marine lacks adequate counter-UAS training. It’s not fully embedded in the [program of instruction] from basic training onward,” Morgan said. Kaelan Deese reports for The Hill.

District Judge Carl Nichols — who is currently hearing arguments in the contentious case between the Department of Commerce and Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd, the owner of video sharing app at TikTok — expressed yesterday that he was unsure of whether there was any legal basis for him limit the government’s plan to ban the app in the US, following calling by TikTok’s lawyers urging Nichols to rule that the Trump administration’s Nov. 12 ban was a likely overreach of presidential authority. Al Jazeera reporting.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 9.48 million and now killed over 233,700 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there has been over 48.21 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 1.227 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The US recorded over 102,000 new coronavirus infections yesterday — the first time since the start of the pandemic that the nation has reported a six-figure number. David Hall reports for the Wall Street Journal.

A ninth US service member has now died from Covid-19, Pentagon data released yesterday confirmed. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the US is available at the New York Times.

US and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

China has warned the US of a ‘proper and necessary response’ to reports that the US intends on selling a further $600 million in arms, specifically drones, to Taiwan. Justine Coleman reports for The Hill.

Afghan security forces and civilians have faced a 50 percent increase in attacks by enemy groups in the third quarter of 2020, according to the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) quarterly report to Congress. Kourtney Kube reports for NBC News. 

About the Author(s)

Siven Watt

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter (@SivenWatt)