Early Edition: January 7, 2021

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.

PRO-TRUMP RIOTERS BREACH THE CAPITOL

What happened yesterday:

“Shortly after 1 p.m. ET Wednesday hundreds of pro-Trump protesters pushed through barriers set up along the perimeter of the Capitol, where they tussled with officers in full riot gear, some calling the officers “traitors” for doing their jobs. About 90 minutes later, police said demonstrators got into the building and the doors to the House and Senate were being locked. Shortly after, the House floor was evacuated by police. Vice President Mike Pence was also evacuated from the chamber, where he was to perform his role in the counting of electoral votes.” “Smoke grenades were used on the Senate side of the Capitol, as police worked to clear the building of rioters. Windows on the west side of the Senate were broken, and hundreds of officers amassed on the first floor of the building … The Senate floor was cleared of rioters as of 3:30 p.m. ET, and an officer told CNN that they successfully squeezed them away from the Senate wing of the building and toward the Rotunda. The protesters were removed through the east and west doors of the Capitol. At least 52 people were arrested as of 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday in Washington.” “The US Capitol Police worked to secure the second floor of the Capitol first, and were seen just before 5 p.m. ET pushing demonstrators off the steps on the east side of the building. With about 30 minutes to go before Washington’s 6 p.m. ET curfew, Washington police amassed in a long line to push the mob back from the Capitol grounds. It took until roughly 5:40 p.m. ET for the building to once again be secured, according to the sergeant-at-arms.” Red Barrett, Manu Raju and Peter Nickeas report for CNN.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) eventually locked off the city at around 6.p.m, issuing an emergency public emergency in the District of Colombia which will remain in place until Jan. 21. Eventually, around 1,100 members of the DC National Guard (DCNG) were fully activated and mobilized to support local police – a decision made by Army Secretary Ryan Murphy and acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. Approval for the order to deploy DCNG was given by Vice President Pence, not Trump, defense and administration officials said. “And at the request of U.S. National Guard officials, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York will deploy 1,000 members of the New York National Guard to Washington for up to two weeks, he said in a statement Wednesday night.” Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt, Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman and Mike Ives report for the New York Times.

Far-right groups have pushed claims that anti-fascist group Antifa were among the mobs yesterday however, those claims have been dispelled, with those alleged to be Antifa actually having ties to far-right movements. “The rumor that supporters of the antifa movement — a loosely organized collective of antifascist activists — had posed as members of the far right on Wednesday was shared more than 150,000 times on Twitter and thousands of times more on Facebook, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Altogether, the accounts pushing the rumor had tens of millions of followers,” reports Davey Alba for the New York Times.

Supporters of President Donald Trump staged rallies at statehouses across the United States on Wednesday, disrupting some official functions but remaining decidedly more subdued than protesters in Washington. Report Seteve Gorman and Daniel Trotta for Reuters.

The woman shot and killed inside the Capitol, Ashli Babbitt, 35, has been identified as a California native and an Air Force veteran. Jaclyn Peiser and Justin Jouvenal report for the Washington Post.

Derrick Evans, a newly elected lawmaker from West Virginia, was among the mob of rioters which breached the Capitol building, after videos have surfaced of him filming himself as he stormed through the interior building with others. Andrea Salcedo reports for the Washington Post.

An explainer on what took place yesterday is provided by Janie Boschma, Tal Yellin, Heather Fulbright, Priya Krishnakumar, Renée Rigdon, Christopher Hickey, Kenneth Uzquiano and Alicia Johnson for CNN.

Criticism has been levied at law enforcement:

Capitol police were not prepared for the magnitude of riots because federal enforcement authorities had planned for a relatively small and minimally visible presence of law enforcement, according to enforcement officials, who said the hope was to avoid fanning flames and tension like witnessed during last years anti-racism protests. The assumption that protests would stay peaceful or that a strong law enforcement presence was not needed was ill-conceived as swarms of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol Building, with some firing “chemical irritants” at officers and many breaking into lawmakers’ offices and breaching the Senate floor. Officials said that law enforcement had not envisaged that barricades would be breached or the Capitol Building would be broken into, although they did expect scuffles between far-right and far-left groups. “The Capitol Police were unprepared for the sheer size of the protest,” said David Gomez, a retired FBI executive, adding that once barricades had been breached federal law enforcement agencies were slow to respond – either because of deference to President Trump, or due to lack of experience of how to deal with such riots. “Up until they breached the Capitol, the possibility existed that it was going to be a large protest that didn’t cross those barricades. Once they did that [law enforcement personnel] were overwhelmed and couldn’t respond quickly enough,” he said. Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.

Lawmakers have pledged for a probe into what appears to be a lack of preparedness by law enforcement to deal with yesterdays violent breach of the Capitol, after the US Capitol Police were charged at and overpowered by violent writers. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the House Administration Committee, said the breach “raised grave security concerns” which her committee will work with Congress to review – she raised particular concerns around a lack of preparation. The Capitol Police were forced to eventually call on other law enforcement agencies such as the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), police officers from neighboring states, FB agents and, eventually, the DC National Guard. Robert Contee, chief of the city’s MPD, confirmed that four people had died, including a woman who was shot by police inside the Capitol and three others who suffered “medical emergencies” connected to the breach. Contee added that over 50 people had been arrested as of last night, include 26 on the Capitol grounds. Al Jazeera reporting.

Its pretty clear that theres going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon, said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), the top House appropriator responsible for the Capitol Polices funding. Ryan said the whole situation was an “embarrassment,” particularly “the lack of professional planning and dealing with what we knew was going to occur.” “You can bet your ass that we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” continued Ryan, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. Ryan went on to say what many have said – “If Black people were storming the Capitol, they would have been treated so much differently than they were today … I don’t think there’s any question that communities of color would have been handled much, much differently.” Caitlin Emma reports for POLITICO.

The Capitol Police didnt fail to prepare for an attack. It failed to imagine what kind of attack was coming,” comments Marc Ambinder for Foreign Policy, arguing that what happened yesterday was “the result of this failure of imagination. Security officials may claim the threat posed by a mob of white vigilantes was too far out of mental reach—it was something they could conceive of but not calibrate their plans for. But that’s an indictment, not an excuse. It’s a failure of the Capitol Police’s own leadership, and a failure of the Department of Homeland Security, to take right-wing radical agitation seriously. It is also a consequence of prejudice, although we should not be too hasty to make assumptions about the racial sociology of a security agency like the Capitol Police that has such a specialized mission.”

Where was the National Guard in all of this?

A National Guard presence at the Capitol was initially minimal. A request was made by the DC Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier this week for the National Guard to be brought to the area as a preemptive measure – around 350 were deployed following approval by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, but those troops were tasked with crowd control only yesterday. Another request was made by Bowser following the breach, and it took defense officials around 30 minutes to consider the request for additional support, take a decision to grant it and then seek approval from Miller, said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy in a press conference with Bowser. Jacqueline Feldscher and Lara Seligmnan report for POLITICO.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed on Twitter that Trump had directed the National Guard  however, sources and officials have indicated that it was actually Vice President Mike Pence. Miller confirmed in a statement the decision to activate the Guard, but made no reference to the president: “[Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley] and I just spoke separately with the Vice President and with Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer and Representative Hoyer about the situation at the U.S. Capitol. We have fully activated the D.C. National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation.” Kaitlan Collins, Zachary Cohen, Barbara Starr and Jennifer Hansler report for CNN.

A decision was made for the DC National Guard to wear black vests instead of their usual camouflage vest. National Guard spokesperson Captain Tinashe T. Machona said in a statement Tuesday: “The black identification vest is not body armor nor a tactical vest. It is the traditional uniform worn by the D.C. National Guard members in multiple domestic operations including Presidential Inaugurations, the COVID-19 pandemic response, the 4th of July celebration and the ‘Anniversary March on Washington’ in the last year.” Lexi Lonas report for The Hill.

Trump has been strongly denounced for his inciting of rioters:

Several former Trump military leaders yesterday criticized both the rioters and Trump for his inciting of their actions. Trump’s first secretary of defense, James Mattis, said yesterday’s “violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump,” and Retired Gen. Joseph Dunford, the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “our leaders who have continued to undermine a peaceful transition in accordance with our Constitution have set the conditions for today’s violence.” Barbara Starr and Caroline Kelly report for CNN.

Fearful that Trump could take actions resulting in further violence and death if he remains in office even for a few days, senior administration officials were discussing Wednesday night whether the Cabinet might invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to force him out, said a person involved in the conversations. “A former senior administration official briefed on the talks confirmed that preliminary discussions of the 25th Amendment were underway, although this person cautioned that they were informal and that there was no indication of an immediate plan of action.” Philip Rucker,  Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris and Ashley Parker reports for the Washington Post.

A growing number of Republican leaders and Cabinet officials told CNN that they believe Donald Trump should be removed from office before January 20. Four of them called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked, and two others said the President should be impeached, report Michael Warren, Jamie Gangel and Jim Acosta for CNN

Over 35 Democratic lawmakers are also calling for Trump to be impeached. Holly Otterbein and Laura Barrón-López report for POLITICO.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said Trumps comments led to the violence, and so far, he has failed to condemn that violence and that is completely wrong. Reuters reporting.

Both Trumps Twitter and Facebook accounts. Kate Conger, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel report for the New York Times.

An explainer on the 25th Amendment and how it could work is provided by the Washington PostCNN and Al Jazeera.

A series of resignations have followed and are expected:

Deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger resigned yesterday. Kaitlan Collins, Vivian Salama, Jake Tapper and Kylie Atwood report for CNN.

With national security advisor Robert OBrien and deputy chief of staff Chris Liddell also said to be contemplating resigning, according to three senior administration officials, the Washington Post and POLTICOAlthough another official said OBrien had no intention of resigning. Steve Holland and Steve Stecklow report for Reuters.

Stephanie Grisham, the former White House communications director and press secretary and current chief of staff for first lady Melania Trump, yesterday resigned with immediate effect. White House social secretary Anna Cristina “Rickie” Niceta also resigned. Kate Bennett reports for CNN.

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews resigned, according to a statement she released. Al Jazeera reporting.

What has been the response by former presidents and world leaders?

All four living former presidents  Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carte condemned yesterdays rioters and any lawmaker who had attempted to delegitimize the election result. Nick Niedzwiadek reports for POLITICO.

World leaders reacted with horror to the scene of the Capitol being breached. Paul Schemm and Erin Cunningham report for the Washington Post.

US ELECTION RESULT AND GEORGIA SENATE RUNOFFS

Congress yesterday certified President-elect Joe Bidens victory in the 2020 election. Cristina Marcos and Mike Lillis report for The Hill.

Followed in the early hours of this morning by President Trump finally agreeing to the orderly transition of power. However, he did not explicitly state that was conceding or that he admitted defeat. Meridith McGraw and Anita Kumar report for POLITICO.

Democrats yesterday won the Senate majority following a contentious runoff victory in Georgia. James Arkin, Andrew Desiderio and Quint Forgey report for POLITICO.

US DEVELOPMENTS

US intelligence agencies are investigating whether a widely used software company, JetBrains, was breached and used as a conduit in last months unprecedented Russian hacking operation of US government network systems.The company was founded by three Russian engineers in the Czech Republic and has its research labs in Russia. “JetBrains, which counts 79 of the Fortune 100 companies as customers, is used by developers at 300,000 businesses. One of them is SolarWinds, the company based in Austin, Texas, whose network management software played a central role in allowing hackers into government and private networks.” The software which is of concern is a product called TeamCity, which allows software developers to test and exchange software code before it is released, which cybersecurity experts have said may have been used by hackers. The company said yesterday that it was not aware it was being investigated, nor was it aware of any compromise. Nicole Perlroth, David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.

The Justice Department confirmed yesterday that around three percent of its employees emails were breached as part of the Russian hack on SolarWinds: “On Dec. 24, 2020, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) learned of previously unknown malicious activity linked to the global SolarWinds incident that has affected multiple federal agencies and technology contractors, among others,” Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi said in a statement, adding, “This activity involved access to the Department’s Microsoft O365 email environment.” Raimondi confirmed that the OCIO had identified how hackers accessed emails but emphasized that there was no indication classified systems had been breached. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.

President-elect Joe Biden intends to nominate federal judge Merrick B. Garland to serve as the next US attorney general, according to sources familiar with the decision. Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Liptak and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 21.30 million and now killed over 361,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 87.34 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 1.886 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

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. 

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)