Early Edition: November 6, 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

The Secret Service has begun to up its measures namely, additional security agents aimed at protecting Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in preparation for a potential victory in the US election, two people familiar with the plan have said, stating that the Service had sent reinforcements to Wilmington, DE, where Biden is today expected to hold a convention and deliver a major speech, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Secret Service spokesperson Catherine Milhoan and a Biden campaign aide declined to comment. Carol D. Leonnig reports for the Washington Post.

The US Office of Special Counsel has opened an investigation into whether President Trump’s use of the White House on Election Day violated the Hatch Act, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) said yesterday. The Office responded to calls by Pascrell for a probe into whether Trump had violated federal law when on Election Day he used the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, dubbed by Pascrell as a “war room”, to address a group of 200 supporters. Pascrell said that Trump was also expected to be briefed in the White House residence and the Oval office on Nov. 3 by campaign officials, which the Democratic official said put executive branch officials at risk of also violating the Hatch Act.  The White House spokesperson Judd Deere denied the claims: “Both the official activity of Administration officials, as well as any political activity undertaken by members of the Administration, are conducted in compliance with the Hatch Act.” The Office has also not commented on the matter. Andrea Shalal reports for Reuters.

Trump and his close allies are frustrated by Attorney General Bill Barr’s reluctance to intervene on behalf of the president amidst an onslaught of legal challenges to the election process and impending result, according to two people familiar with internal conversations, citing that Trump was losing patience with the Department of Justice (DOJ). When asked if they think Barr would bet involved, John Dowd, the prosecutor that represented Trump during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and who remains a close personal adviser, said, “I hope so. I hope they’re on the job.” Some believe Barr may still eventually come to Trump’s aid: “The fact we haven’t seen it yet is not a comfort. Contorted constitutional-legal theories are Barr’s preferred modus operandi,” said a current federal prosecutor on condition of anonymity. Asawin Suebsaeng and Spencer Ackerman report for the Daily Beast.

Nationwide protests over ballot-counting continued yesterday with many shouting “Count every vote!” and others hailing “Stop the Steal!” as tensions grow over the election results and whether vote counts should be curbed. Protests were seen in many states, including Portland, Detroit, Arizona, New York, Washington and Miami. A number of arrests were made, including 70 during New York protests. Simon Romero, Shaila Dewan and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio report for the New York Times.

A federal judge yesterday rejected an emergency injunction application by the Trump campaign against Philadelphia County’s Board of Elections in an effort to have ballot-counting stopped because Republican observers were unable to properly monitor the situation. “As stated during today’s emergency injunction hearing, in light of the parties’ agreement, plaintiff’s motion is denied without prejudice,” District Judge Paul Diamond said in a one-sentence order late yesterday. Reuters reporting.

The Trump campaign also lost lawsuits yesterday in Michigan and Georgia that sought to halt vote counts and obtain greater access to the tabulation process in key battleground states. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens decided the case yesterday, stating, “I have no basis to find that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits,” and is expected to issue a written ruling today. In Georgia, Judge James Bass said there was “no evidence” that the disputed 53 late-arriving ballots were invalid. Tom Hals and Jan Wolfe report for Reuters.

Social media giant Facebook yesterday banned a pro-Trump group page, called “Stop the Steal,” which after just one day garnered over 350,000 members, posting violent rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims that Democrats were stealing the election. “In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the group ‘Stop the Steal,’ which was creating real-world events. The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny report for NBC News.

Trump, yesterday in his first public address since election night, again repeated a spate of unfounded claims that the election was marred by widespread voter fraud and state election officials were rigging vote tallies. “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump said. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us. If you count the votes that came in late — we‘re looking at them very strongly, but a lot of votes came in late.” His claims were refuted by state election officials. Matthew Choi reports for POLITICO.

Several US TV networks — MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC — yesterday stopped live coverage of Trump’s public address over concerns of deliberate disinformation spreading. CNN continued to cover the address but added a chyron to the coverage, which read: “Without any evidence, Trump says he’s being cheated.” Michael M. Grynbaum and Tiffany Hsu report for the New York Times.

Top national security officials are growing increasingly concerned over Trump’s claims of voter fraud and are preparing for Trump to reject the official result if he loses. If Trump does lose and questions the accuracy and legitimacy of the result, one option discussed, but not confirmed, would be for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make a public statement reaffirming the results integrity, according to two officials familiar with the matter. Erin Banco and Adam Rawnsley report for the Daily Beast.

Officials and media outlets from America’s main global allies are growing increasingly disturbed over Trump’s  persistent and unfounded claims of voter fraud. Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas criticized Trump’s refusal to accept the election result and said the United States is not a “one-man show,” adding, “Anyone who continues to pour oil on the fire in a situation like this is acting irresponsibly.” Japan’s former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, also expressed concern: “We can say for the United States to get into turmoil and confusion because of the election is a minus for its allies and like-minded countries.” Simon Denyer, Jennifer Hassan and Isabelle Khurshudyan report for the Washington Post.

District Judge Emmet Sullivan for DC yesterday instructed the US Postal Service to conduct twice daily sweeps of its facilities in states with extended ballot deadlines after it was revealed in court yesterday that some 150,000 ballots were delivered a day after Election Day, with more than 10,000 of these late ballots coming from key battleground states. Rebecca Smith, Byron Tau and Rob Barry report for the Wall Street Journal.

Hundreds of thousands of ballots in key swing state Pennsylvania remained uncounted as of yesterday, according to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar. Reuters reporting.

“How Trump loyalists are driving his campaign’s legal efforts to challenge ballots,” is explained by Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Elise Viebeck for the Washington Post.

A fact-check on Trump’s White House address yesterday is provided by Glenn Kessler for the Washington Post.

A timeline of Trump’s false voter fraud claims since Election Day is set out by Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo for the Washington Post.

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

US DEVELOPMENTS

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has prepared his letter of resignation, a number of defense officials have said, is reportedly working with Congress to create legislation that would remove the names of Confederate leaders from military bases. Esper is, along with lawmakers, helping to draft new language in the National Defense Authorization Act to ensure name changes were legislated on. POLITICO has reported that news of a potential resignation has prompted many defense officials to urge that Esper remains in his post to ensure a peaceful transition should Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden win the election. Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee report for NBC News.

Social media Giant Twitter has permanently banned an account belonging to Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former campaign adviser and former White House chief strategist, after he suggested yesterday that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and key member of the White House coronavirus task force, and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded. Bannon went further than that, stating, “I’d put the heads on pikes. Right. I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you are gone.” Curt Devine and Donie O’Sullivan report for CNN.

A soldier based at Fort Hood, Texas, was arrested Tuesday and charged with the murder of a woman in June 2019. He is charged with killing Chelsea Cheatham, 32. “With the assistance from the Texas Rangers, DNA from the scene was submitted and the results confirmed that Grafton matched the DNA located on Cheatham,” Killeen Police said in statement release. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 9.61 million and now killed over 234,900 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there has been over 48.81 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 1.235 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The US recorded over 121,000 new coronavirus infections yesterday, a new daily record following yesterday’s record. Julie Bosman, Audra D. S. Burch and Sarah Mervosh report for the New York Times.

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

The State Department has informally notified Congress that it intends to sell $2.9 billion in armed aerial drones to the UAE, including 18 armed MQ-9B aerial drones, people familiar with the notification have said. Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle report for Reuters.

The Trump administration is expected to today sanction prominent Lebanese politician Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, over assisting his ally, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. The decision has reportedly been approved by the Treasury Department and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Benoit Faucon and Dion Nissenbaum report for the Wall Street Journal.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci resigned yesterday and was shortly after arrested and transferred to a detention facility of the Kosovo Tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands, to face charges of alleged war crimes. Michael Birnbaum reports for the Washington Post. 

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)