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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND US ELECTION RESULTS
President Trump and his legal team continue in their efforts to challenge the election results, which include: a planned appeal to a Saturday federal ruling in Pennsylvania where US District Court Judge Matthew Brann slammed the team’s “strained legal arguments and speculative accusations;” a filed recount petition in Georgia after it certified President-elect Joe Biden as the winner; and Trump continuing to spout claims of election fraud in a series of posts on Twitter over the weekend. Catherine Lucey and Ted Mann report for the Wall Street Journal.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime ally of Trump, said yesterday that Trump’s unrelenting legal challenges to the election results have been a “national embarrassment” as his legal team continue to raise doubts about the results without providing evidence of voter fraud. Christie stressed: “If you’ve got the evidence of fraud, present it,” highlighting that when the Trump campaign’s legal team “go inside the courtroom, they don’t plead fraud, and they don’t argue fraud,” further adding, “You have an obligation to present the evidence. The evidence has not been presented, and you must conclude, as Tucker Carlson even concluded the other night, that if you are unwilling to come forward and present the evidence, it must mean the evidence doesn’t exist.” “I have been a supporter of the president’s … I voted for him twice, but elections have consequences, and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn’t happen,” Christie made clear. Allie Bice reports for POLITICO.
The Trump campaign has removed Sidney Powell from its legal team, a key member of Trump’s legal team, although no specific reason has been given. Today’s Early Edition, a curated guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend. Powell recently touted a host of conspiracy theories about the election result, including that it had been rigged by “communist money” from China and Cuba, but offered no evidence. Powell “is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity,” said a campaign statement signed by Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis. Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey report for the Washington Post.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is consulting with election law experts as she considers criminal investigations of state and local officials who allow themselves to be influenced by Trump’s will on overturning election results, looking into the possibility that “officials may have violated any state laws prohibiting them from engaging in bribery, perjury and conspiracy, according to people familiar with the deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.” The potential probe follows after two Republican officials in Wayne County attempted to rescind their certification vote of the election results in their county following a call the day before with Trump, although they have insisted that Trump did not attempt to pressure them. Also, more recently, four leaders of Michigan’s Republican-controlled state legislature visited the White House to meet with Trump at his invitation, although the leaders released a statement following their meeting, stating: “have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election.” Carol D. Leonnig and Tom hamburger report for the Washington Post.
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN’S TRANSITION OF POWER
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to soon nominate a number of key positions within his administration, including: Antony Blinken to serve as secretary of State; Jake Sullivan as national security advisor; and Linda Thomas-Greenfield to serve as ambassador to the United Nations, according to a number of people familiar with the internal matters. Natasha Korecki, Natasha Bertrand and Nahal Toosi report for POLITICO.
More Republicans have acknowledged Biden’s victory and have undercut President Trump’s litany of false voter fraud claims. These include: Rep. Liz Cheney (WY), who said Trump should respect “the sanctity of our electoral process” if he can’t evidence his claims in court; Rep. Fred Upton (MI), who said yesterday that “it’s over,” while talking on CNN’s “Inside Politics;” and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said Trump’s actions were similar to that seen in a “banana republic.” GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AL) has also called on Trump to start the transition process after numerous judges have found his lawsuits to be “without merit.” Stephen Collinson reports for CNN.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that he won’t acknowledge Biden’s victory until the results have been confirmed “in a legitimate, legal way” or until the win is recognized by the Republican party. “We will work with anyone who has the confidence of the American people,” Putin stated, adding, “But that confidence can only be given to a candidate whose victory has been recognized by the opposing party, or after the results are confirmed in a legitimate, legal way.” Aris Folley reports for The Hill.
The novel coronavirus has infected close to 12.25 million and killed over 256,700 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have now been over 58.75 million confirmed coronavirus cases and close to 1.39 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued authorization for the emergency use of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Covid-19 antibody therapy, an experimental treatment that President Trump said helped cure him of the disease. “The FDA said the monoclonal antibodies, casirivimab and imdevimab, should be administered together for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 in adults and pediatric patients with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing and who are at high risk for progressing to severe Covid-19.” Reuters reporting.
The Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is up to 90 percent effective when it is administered at a half dose and then a full booster dose the following month, scientists confirmed today. Yuliya Talmazan reports for NBC News.
G20 leaders have pledged to ensure that “all people” will have access to an eventual Covid-19 vaccine, according to a Leaders’ Declaration Saturday.
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 US DEVELOPMENTS
The US has formally withdrawn from the decades-old Treaty of Open Skies, an accord aimed at reducing the risk of war by permitting Russia and the West to carry our unarmed reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories. The withdrawal comes six months after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw, with the US long claiming that Russia is not complying with the treaty’s terms. White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien confirmed in a statement: “Today marks six months since the United States submitted our notice of withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies … We are now no longer a party to this treaty that Russia flagrantly violated for years.” Dominick Mastrangelo reports for The Hill.
US judge Beryl Howell has barred US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO Michael Pack, appointed by Trump, and his team from investigating or interfering with journalists at Voice of America and its sister networks, marking an important win for USAGM’s staffers who have criticized him during his five-month leadership, including five senior executives which Pack recently suspended. David Folkenflik reports for NPR.
“Afghanistan’s chief peace envoy Abdullah Abdullah said Saturday that the US decision to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan has come too soon.” AP reporting.
ISIS militants struck Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, with deadly rockets, leaving at least 8 dead and many more injured — the attack happened hours before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Qatar to meet Afghan and Taliban negotiators to discuss the stalling peace negotiations between the two warring sides. Pompeo said to the negotiations teams that the United States will “sit on the side and help where we can,” adding, “I would be most interested in getting your thoughts on how we can increase the probability of successful outcome that I know we share.” Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Fatima Faizi report for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday that there will be no change in the US’s policy approach to Iran during President Trump’s remaining time in office. Pompeo said during an interview with Saudi-owned broadcaster Al-Arabiya, which is based in Dubai, that the Trump administration’s singling out of Iran as “the central threat inside the region” would not change, stating: “It will be our policy until our time is complete … Our policies don’t change. Our duty doesn’t change. My responsibilities don’t change … I still have an obligation — every hour, every minute — to defend the American people and to keep them foremost in our efforts, and we’ll do that. We’ll do that to the very last minute.” John Bowden reports for The Hill.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly made a secret visit to Saudi Arabia yesterday to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pompeo, Israeli media said, marking a significant diplomatic step between the two countries. Yossi Cohen, the director of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, accompanied Netanyahu. “The leaders discussed several issues, including normalization of ties and Iran, but no substantial agreements were reached, one of the senior Saudi advisers familiar with the talks told The Wall Street Journal. He said the meeting lasted a couple of hours … Saudi Arabia’s foreign and media ministries didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu declined to confirm the meeting,” report Felicia Schwartz, Dov Lieber and Summer Said for the Wall Street Journal.
The US has provided precision guided missiles and other weapons to the Philippines in support of its battle against ISIS-linked militants and to help with any potential attack in the disputed South China Sea. National Security Advisor “Robert O’Brien represented Trump in Monday’s ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, where he announced the delivery of the missiles and bombs to the Philippine military. Trump pledged to provide the $18 million worth of missiles in a phone conversation with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in April, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said.” AP reporting.
Navy Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, the leading military intelligence official at US Indo-Pacific command, visited Taiwan yesterday, which has prompted China to say it will respond to reports of the visit and that opposed any military relationship between the two countries. Reuters reporting.
Yemen’s Houthi rebel group today claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a distribution station operated by the Saudi Aramco oil company in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah, stating that the attack was in retaliation to the Saudi-coalition’s involvement in Yemen’s conflict. Sudarsan Raghavan reports for the Washington Post.
“Iran on Sunday vowed to defeat any Israeli attempt to harm its role in Syria, saying the era of “hit and run” attacks by Israel there was over, days after Israel carried out air strikes on Syrian army and Iranian paramilitary targets in the country.” Reuters reporting.
Russia on Friday blocked a UN Security Council committee from blacklisting a Libyan militia group and its leader for alleged human rights violations, stressing that it wanted to see more evidence that they had been responsible for killing civilians. “The United States and Germany proposed that the council’s 15-member Libya sanctions committee impose an asset freeze and travel ban on the al-Kaniyat militia and its leader Mohammed al-Kani. Such a move has to be agreed by consensus, but Russia said it could not approve,” reports Michelle Nichols for Reuters.
“Ethiopia’s military is warning civilians in the besieged Tigray regional capital that there will be “no mercy” if they don’t “save themselves” before a final offensive to flush out defiant regional leaders — a threat that Human Rights Watch on Sunday said could violate international law.” AP reporting.