Early Edition: January 13, 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.

BREACH AT THE CAPITOL

The FBI had knowledge of the potential threat posed:

FBI officials from the Norfolk office, southern Virginia, warned a day before the Capitol was breached that mobs of extremists planned to riot and commit violence and war, an internal report reviewed by The Post reveals, with the report suggesting that rioters were sharing maps of the Capitols tunnels and planning meeting points across states to then travel to the Capitol in groups. The report was produced Jan. 5 by the Norfolk office and sent to the Washington office the same day, where it was then sent on to other unnamed law enforcement agencies, according to a law enforcement official. “As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington, D.C.,” the document says. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.” Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report for the Washington Post.

The FBIs failure to produce a Joint Intelligence Bulletin (JIB) compiled by its Intelligence Branch — which would have provided assessments about potential threats posed and shared them with relevant law enforcement agencies — was, in part, due to concerns that too hasty a decision might have raised concerns about encroaching on free speech rights, a current and two former senior FBI officials familiar with the matter told NBC News. Ken Dilanian and Julia Ainsley report for NBC News.

Steven DAntuono, head of the FBIs Washington field office, accepted during a conference yesterday that the bureau did have information about possible violence, stating that intel had been shared through a group known as the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the DC Metropolitan Police and Capitol Police. Officials have confirmed that no JIB was produced. Ken Dilianian reports for NBC News.

FBI/Justice Department conference:

The FBI has opened over 160 case files into those who breached the Capitol, but this is only the beginning,” warned acting US attorney for DC Michael Sherwin. Both Sherwin and D’Antuono made clear during yesterday’s conference that law enforcement agencies would be going above and beyond to track down those responsible. “The scope and the scale of this investigation into these cases are really unprecedented not only in FBI history but probably DOJ history in which essentially the Capitol grounds outside and inside are essentially a crime scene,” Sherwin said, adding, “It is not going to be solved in the coming months.” Ken Dilianian reports for NBC News.

Sherwin said the Justice Department is considering charges including sedition and conspiracy, which carry a prison term of up to 20 years. Prosecutors could also file charges of murder and other serious felonies. Michael D. Shear, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner report for the New York Post.

The FBI will also consider adding rioters to the US no-fly list, which bans individuals from leaving the country, D’Antuono suggested during the conference. “As for the no-fly list, we look at all tools and techniques that we possibly can use within the FBI and that’s something we are actively looking at,” he said replying to a question from CNN’s Evan Pérez. Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace report for CNN.

Key takeaways from yesterdays conference are provided by Paul LeBlanc for CNN.

All the Capitol Rioters Should be Tracked Down  but not in ways that will only further entrench the surveillance state, writes Sushma Raman for Foreign Policy.

Law enforcement officials are preparing for Inauguration Day:

The Secret Service will reportedly lead an unprecedented security operation for Inauguration Day, supported by around 15,000 National Guard troops and thousands of police and tactical officers. “The high-alert security posture is starting six days earlier than planned to coordinate roles for the FBI, National Guard, U.S. Marshals Service and a host of other federal agencies that will fall under Secret Service command.” Carol D. Leonnig, Karoun Demirjian, Justin Jouvenal and Nick Miroff report for the Washington Post.

National Guard troops assigned to the Capitol for Jan. 20 will be armed, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has decided, Defense Department officials said yesterday. Helene Cooper and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said yesterday that there will be no tolerance whatsoever for those who intend to disrupt Inauguration Day. In a video posted on YouTube, Rosen said: “I want to send a clear message to anyone contemplating violence, threats of violence or other criminal conduct: We will have no tolerance whatsoever for any attempts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20 that our Constitution calls for.” “We will have no tolerance for any attempts to forcefully occupy government buildings. There will be no excuse for violence, vandalism or any other form of lawlessness,” he added. Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.

Following warnings by the FBI that armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols, as well as the US Capitol, states are upping their security measures. How each state is preparing is explained by Eric Levenson for CNN.

Joint Chiefs of Staff memo:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff  including chair Gen. Mark Milley, vice chair Gen. John Hyten and the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marines Corps, Air Force, Space Force and National Guard  yesterday condemned rioters for sedition and insurrection at the Capitol. “We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection,” a memo signed by the chiefs read. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.

The chiefs also reminded troops of their duty to follow the law: “As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation … Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law.” The memo also acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, noting that he will be inaugurated Jan. 20 and become the commander-in-chief “in accordance with the Constitution.” Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO.

Pressure ramps up for President Trump to be removed from office: 

The House late last night passed a resolution by 223-205 votes demanding that Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment following a letter by Pence to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) yesterday rejecting calls for him to invoke the constitution. Pence’s letter said: “With just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment. I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution.” The resolution, brought by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), calls for Pence “to immediately use his powers under section 4 of the 25th Amendment to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments in the Cabinet to declare what is obvious to a horrified nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties of his office.” Clare Foran reports for CNN.

Pelosi signals her intent to hurry along impeachment proceedings, recently naming her impeachment managers: “Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor, will serve as the lead impeachment manager. The others are Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette (Colo.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Joaquin Castro (Texas), Eric Swalwell (Calif.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Joe Neguse (Colo.), Madeleine Dean (Pa.) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (Virgin Islands).” Cristina Marcos reports for The Hill.

Five House Republicans now support calls to impeach Trump: Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Liz Cheney of Wyomingl John Katko of New York, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington. CNNreporting.

Pence is done with Trumps bulls–t, a former adviser to the vice president said. “He’s not going to give a prime time speech saying, ‘F you Donald Trump,’ but in his own way he is going to just get to the finish line and keep his head down,” they added. Gabby Orr reports for POLITICO.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is apparently quietly backing plans to impeach Trump, but has not made clear if he would vote to convict. “Another person with direct knowledge told CNN there’s a reason McConnell has been silent on impeachment as other Republicans have pushed back: he’s furious about last week’s attack on the US Capitol by the President’s supporters, even more so that Trump has shown no contrition. His silence has been deliberate as he leaves open the option of supporting impeachment,” report Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly, Jeff Zeleny, Jim Acosta and Kaitlan Collins for CNN

The White House Counsels Office seems to be taking a different approach to the potential of another impeachment saga for Trump  the Office has not drawn up a plan for combating the impeachment effort, an administration official said, and its legislative affairs team is not contacting lawmakers,which it did during the first impeachment. Mike DeBonis, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report for thee Washington Post.

A Republican group has promised to raise $50 million in support of Republican lawmakers who vote in favor of impeaching Trump. Defending Democracy Together, an umbrella organization that includes Republicans for the Rule of Law and Republican Voters Against Trump, announced the campaign, dubbed “Republican Accountability Project,” yesterday. Nick Niedzwiadek reports for POLITICO.

Trump is apparently ramping up his discussions with aides and advisers on whether he can pardon himself and his children, sources have told CNN. “The source familiar with White House conversations said that Trump might issue a blanket pardon to cover himself and his children up until the time he leaves office, adding, from Trum’s point of view, “it makes sense to just cover it all.” Jamie Gangel, Pamela Brown and Kara Scannell report for CNN.

Trump loses support from all angles:

New York City is looking into whether it can cancel its contracts with the Trump Organization which include two ice skating rinks at Central Park, the Central Park Carousel and the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a city-owned golf course in the Bronx  Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said yesterday, saying: “We are looking at that very, very carefully and very quickly … The president incited a rebellion against the United States government — clearly an unconstitutional act and people died. That’s unforgivable.” Emma G. Fitzsimmons reports for the New York Times.

YouTube has suspended Trumps channel for a minimum 7 days, but may extend the period, citing that the presidents page had broken rules on inciting violence. BBC News reporting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed Trump from his Twitter account banner picture, replacing it with a photo of him being vaccinated for coronavirus. Reuters reports.

Cushman & Wakefield told The Washington Post it would no longer work with [Trump]. The company has handled an array of business for Trump for many years, including office leasing at Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street, and retail leasing in Chicago. It means that Trumps company will quickly have to find someone else to handle lease negotiations at some of his most prominent properties. Cushman & Wakefield has made the decision to no longer do business with The Trump Organization, the company said in a statement, report Josh Dawsey, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell for the Washington Post.

Also:

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) accused members of Congress during a live webcast yesterday of giving reconnaissance tours to insurrectionists the day before the Capitol was breached. Nicholas Katzban reports for North Jersey.

Some Republican lawmakers have criticized new security measures introduced at the Capitol, including metal detectors and physical pat-downs. Alana Wise reports for NPR.

The political action committees (PACs) of BlackRock Inc., Vanguard Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Fidelity Investments, State Street Corp. and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. gave a combined $1.1milliom to Republican lawmakers who have objected to certifying the election result, according to an analysis by Majority Action. Bloomberg reporting.

Four defense contractors  Northrop Grumman, Leidos, BAE Systems and Raytheon  join a list of companies suspending their political donations to members of Congress. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

Eduard Florea was yesterday arrested by the FBI on weapons-related charges in response to online threats he allegedly made that were said to have been made not long after the Capitol breach, including about an armed caravan that was set to travel to the Capitol. Jonathan Dienst and Myles Miller report for NBC New York.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION

President-elect Joe Bidens nomination for the new defense secretary  retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III  could receive a waiver by the Senate Armed Services Committee, despite bipartisan concerns over the tradition of civilian leadership of the Pentagon. Karound Demirjian reports for the Washington Post.

Biden is expected to nominate Samantha Power, former UN ambassador under the Obama administration, to head the US Agency for International Development, according to transition officials. Andrea Mitchell reports for NBC News.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold confirmation hearings on Jan. 19 for three of Bidens picks: Antony Blinken for Secretary of State, Janet Yellen for Treasury Secretary and Lloyd Austin for Defense Secretary. Business Standard reporting.

RUSSIAN HACKING

SolarWinds, the software company that was used by Russian hackers as a conduit to infiltrate government systems, has disclosed evidence that the hack started earlier than originally said. “Hackers were accessing its systems in early September 2019, the network-management company said Tuesday, based on a continuing investigation. Cybersecurity experts suspect preparations for the attack go back far longer. A month later, a version of the company’s Orion Platform software appears to have contained modifications designed to test the hacker’s ability to insert malicious code into the system. The code was added starting Feb. 20, 2020, SolarWinds said, and the compromised software was available to its customers by March 26, 2020.” Dave Sebastian reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Russian hackers also targeted customers of email security company Mimecast. Robert McMillan reports for the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER US DEVELOPMENTS

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett will resign from her role ahead of Inauguration Day, the sixth Air Force official to leave prior to the new administration. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

A National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office has been established in the White House, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced yesterday. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.

US RELATIONS

The Trump administration has declassified its strategy for countering the rise of Chinas power in Asia, with a document stating that it intends to counter Chinapredatory economic practices,assist in accelerating Indias rise, and help Taiwan ensure freedom from coercion. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien yesterday announced the publication of the document, titled “United States Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific.” “Beijing is increasingly pressuring Indo-Pacific nations to subordinate their freedom and sovereignty to a ‘common destiny’ envisioned by the Chinese Communist Party,” O’Brien said in an expanded statement, adding, “The U.S. approach is different. We seek to ensure that our allies and partners – all who share the values and aspirations of a free and open Indo-Pacific — can preserve and protect their sovereignty.” Bloomberg reporting.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has cancelled his scheduled visit to Belgium at the last minute, with the State Department suggesting the reason was to help with the transition to the Biden administarion. Others have said it actually followed E.U. officials refusing to meet with him, according European and U.S. diplomats familiar the matter. David M. Herszenhorn reports for POLITICO EU.

The State Department also cancelled a planned trip to Taiwan by US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft. AP reporting. And Taiwan has said it respects the decision to cancel the visit. Reuters reporting.

Fears that foreign adversaries could exploit the current crisis faced by the US nation following the Capitol breach has been suggested as the reason for Pompeo and Craft no longer visiting Europe and Taiwan. “The people, who all spoke on condition of anonymity, said the cancellations were fuelled by concern among top officials that the White House is too chaotic following the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.” Jennifer Jacobs, Nick Wadhams and Saleha Mohsin report for Bloomberg.

Five people linked to Iran have been listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), according to the Treasury Department. Reuters reporting.

US-IRAN RELATIONS

Irans military launched a short-range naval missile drill on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Iran rejected Secretary of State Mike Pompeos claims yesterday that the nation had allowed al-Qaeda to establish a new home based in the country, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif describing Pompeo’s comments as “warmongering lies.” Reuters reporting.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 22.84 million and now killed over 380,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 90.71 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 1.96 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

President-elect Joe Biden is finalizing his coronavirus relief plan, with aides briefing congressional staffers yesterday and Biden expected to unveil the plan tomorrow, which “is expected to include $2,000 stimulus payments, an extension of enhanced unemployment insurance, money for vaccine distribution and delivery, funding for cities, states, schools, child care and more.” Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report for the Washington Post.

House Speak Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is implementing fines for lawmakers who do not wear a mask on the House floor: $500 for the first offense, and $2,500 for a second, which will be deducted from the members pay. The House Office Building Commission is also considering implementing a similar fine system for not wearing masks in office buildings Heather Caygle reports.

The US will require all international travelers entering the country to produce a negative Covid-19 test before boarding flights, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday. Michelle Hackman and Andrew Restuccia report for the Wall Street Journal.

Iran and Cuba have teamed up to trial a joint Covid-19 vaccine. “The Cuban vaccine, called Soberana 02, is the most advanced of Cuba’s four vaccine candidates and will be developed in cooperation between Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute and Iran’s Pasteur Institute, authorities from both countries said Monday.” Sune Engel Rasmussen reports for the Wall Street Journal.

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. 

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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)