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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
White supremacists among the rioters:
Dozens of rioters during last week’s Capitol breach are suspected white supremacists who had already been placed on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist — Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) —according to people familiar with evidence gathered in the bureau’s investigation. The list is separate to the government’s no-fly list which prohibits boarding flights, nor does the list bar those on it from public or commercial spaces, current and former officials said. “Since its creation, the terrorist watch list, which is maintained by the FBI, has grown to include hundreds of thousands of names. Placing someone’s name on the watch list does not mean they will be watched all of the time, or even much of the time, for reasons of both practicality and fairness, but it can alert different parts of the government, such as border agents or state police, to look more closely at certain individuals they encounter,” report Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Marissa J. Lang report the Washington Post.
Inauguration Day and Law Enforcement:
Rehearsals scheduled Sunday for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration have been postponed due to security concerns, according to two people familiar with the decision, stating the rehearsal has been rescheduled for Monday. Biden’s Amtrak trip to Washington, planned for Monday, has also been canceled. Tyler Pager and Olivia Beavers reports for POLITICO.
Law enforcement officials have warned state authorities to be on alert for any potential acts of violence at state capitols, as well as a possible further attack on the Capitol itself or on the White House. Officials said far-right extremists might use firearms and explosives, with talks of rallies starting Sunday. “Security at the inaugural ceremony in Washington on Wednesday probably will be the most intense ever.” Shane Harris, Souad Mekhennet and Razzan Nakhlawi report for the Washington Post.
The Secret Service, which is leading the organized effort to secure the Inauguration Day ceremony, said yesterday that it would establish a “green zone” in downtown Washington this weekend, shutting down traffic and train stations, adding that most of the streets around the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol would be closed from Saturday morning until the day after the ceremony. Also, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is planning to fly an aircraft to Washington to conduct surveillance over the ceremony, the agency said in a statement, with agents on the ground able to watch video footage of the event in real time. Alan Feuer and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.
Secret Service director James Murray sent an agency-wide memo on Wednesday to remind all the service’s employees to remain professional and to conduct themselves in a nonpartisan manner during next week’s inauguration. “There has been a great deal of hyper-charged rhetoric associated with the presidential transition, particularly on social media sites. As members of the Secret Service, each of us is expected to remain civil and professional at all times,” Murray wrote in the memo, reviewed by CNN. “When carrying out our duties and representing the agency, we are expected to behave in a nonpartisan manner,” Murray said, adding, “This straight forward adjustment is in response to the heightened security environment in the wake of the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, and will simply provide additional time for the full resources of all participating agencies to be employed.” Jim Acosta and Jason Hoffman for CNN.
Over a dozen Democrats yesterday called for cots, bedding, shower facilities and other resources to be provided to National Guard troops who have been sleeping on the floors of the Capitol building this week. “In a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said they were “disappointed” by images that went viral on social media of soldiers resting in the Capitol Rotunda, the Capitol Visitor Center and elsewhere as the Army scrambles to secure lodging for thousands of troops sent to the nation’s capital to prevent further violence following the insurrection last week.” Catlin Emma reports for POLITICO.
Military and law enforcement officials among the rioter:
At least 21 ex-military and law enforcement agents were among the rioters that breached the Capitol. “A review by The Associated Press news agency of public records, social media posts and videos shows at least 21 current or former members of US military or law enforcement have been identified as being at or near the US Capitol at the time of the riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation, but not yet named.” AP reporting.
A federal prosecutor in Texas also said yesterday that a retired Air Force officer who stormed the Senate chamber dressed in military-style clothing and holding zip ties had intended to “take hostages.” Retired Air Force officer, Larry Rendell Brock, who was arrested Sunday on one count of unlawfully entering a restricted building and another of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds intended to “take hostages,” the Texas prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer, said yesterday: “He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government.” AP reporting
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is urging the Pentagon and the Justice Department to investigate any current or former military service members involved. “We write with grave concerns over reports that multiple active duty and retired military service members and veterans are under investigation, or have been arrested, in connection with their participation in the riot and insurrection in the U.S. Capitol last week,” read a letter sent by the group Wednesday to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
A Virginia police officer arrested last week is a current corporal in the Virginia National Guard, officials confirmed yesterday, adding that the member, Jacob Fracker, has been charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. “The Virginia National Guard will conduct an investigation into the matter, and we will be able to release more information when that is complete,” the Guard said in a statement. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
“No one took us seriously,” rage Black police officers, who say they had warned about racist Capitol police office for years, with over 250 Black officers suing the department since 2001. “Two current Black Capitol Police officers told BuzzFeed News that they were angered by leadership failures that they said put them at risk as racist members of the mob stormed the building. The Capitol Police force is only 29% Black in a city that’s 46% Black. By contrast, as of 2018, 52% of Washington Metropolitan police officers were Black. The Capitol Police are comparable to the Metropolitan force in spending, employing more than 2,300 people and boasting an annual budget of about a half-billion dollars,” report Joshua Kaplan and Joaquin Sapien for ProPublica.
Robert Sanford, a retired firefighter from the Chester Fire Department, has been charged with four federal counts after being accused of throwing a fire extinguisher at a group of officers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in Washington said. Phil Helsel reports for NBC News.
Also, lawmakers who interacted with rioters at the Capitol, and who have been accused by some of colluding and conspiring, could face criminal charges and will be included in any federal investigation, former prosecutors said. “This is incredibly serious,” said Ron Machen, a former U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., adding, “Although you would need compelling evidence before charging a member of Congress with anything related to the breach of the Capitol that day, this has to be investigated.” Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.
Arrests so far:
More than 200 suspects have been identified in investigations; and more than 100 people have been arrested, FBI Director Chris Wray said yesterday in his first public appearance since the riot. He added that law enforcement was aware of and monitoring “an extensive amount of concerning online chatter,” but made clear that “what’s aspirational versus what’s intentional” must be distinguished. The Justice Department confirmed yesterday that the FBI has received over 140,000 tip-offs identifying rioters, with the department launching an online portal for the public to keep track of those being charged with criminal offenses relatting to last week’s insurrection. Nick Niedzwiadek reports for POLITICO.
Federal prosecutors for the first yesterday described rioters’ actions last week as a “violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government” — one they say could still be underway. The language was used during a filing in federal district court in Arizona which aimed to deny bail to Jacob Anthony Chansley, who prosecutors described as “an active participant in” and “the most prominent symbol of” the insurrection. Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein report for POLITICO.
The man photographed carrying a Confederate battle flag through the Capitol building has been arrested, the Justice Department confirmed yesterday, confirming Kevin Seefried was arrested in Delaware along with his son Hunter Seefried. Al Jazeera reporting.
John Sullivan, a liberal activist from Utah and the founder of a protest group called Insurgence USA, was arrested yesterday on federal charges for taking part in riots last week. Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.
Democrats are grappling with when to push forward with starting the Senate impeachment trial, with some calling for a prompt trial and others urging patience while further evidence is gathered and other tasks before the new administration are addressed. The timing of the trial depends on when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) formally sends over the article of impeachment to the chamber. “A person familiar with Democratic leadership discussions in Congress said that, barring further provocations from Mr. Trump, the party might hold on to the article for some time, allowing more evidence to accumulate and giving Mr. Biden full access to the Senate schedule early in his term. Before last year’s trial, Mrs. Pelosi held on to the two articles of impeachment for several weeks.” Andrew Duehren and Lindsay Wise report for the Wall Street Journal.
Justin Goodman, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), signaled yesterday that Democrats are working with their fellow Republicans “to find a path forward,” although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently rebuffed Democratic calls for the chamber to reconvene before Inauguration Day. “A growing number of Republican senators, including McConnell, have signaled in recent days that they are open to convicting Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection.” A two-thirds vote is necessary for Trump’s conviction, meaning that 17 of the 50 Republicans in the incoming Senate would need to join the 50 members who caucus with the Democrats.” Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis report for the Washington Post.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-WY) yesterday condemned Trump’s inciting of insurrectionists and said impeachment is “appropriate” — although she did not confirm if she would vote to convict Trump. “On the day of the riots, President Trump’s words incited violence, which led to the injury and deaths of Americans — including a Capitol Police officer — the desecration of the Capitol, and briefly interfered with the government’s ability to ensure a peaceful transfer of power,” Murkowski said, adding, “Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequence and the House has responded swiftly, and I believe, appropriately, with impeachment.” Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.
The Senate Intelligence Committee announced last night that today’s confirmation hearing for President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be the next director of national intelligence (DNI), Avril Haines, has been postponed, with one source stating that the reason was due to a committee Republican rejecting the session from taking place virtually. It is unclear whether the hearing will take place before or after Inauguration Day. Martin Matishak reports for POLITICO.
Biden will today announce his plan to appoint David Cohen to be CIA deputy director, according to a transition official. Martin Matishak reports for POLITICO.
Biden taps current Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist to temporarily head the Pentagon while the new administration continues its work to get a permanent chief confirmed, most likely retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, according to four people familiar with discussions. Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO.
John Kirby will be nominated as the Pentagon’s press secretary, after formerly serving as spokesperson for “John Kerry when he was secretary of state, Chuck Hagel when he was defense secretary and Mike Mullen when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Helene Cooper reports for the New York Times.
Biden picks former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Dr. David Kessler to head the federal vaccine effort, Operation Warp Speed. “He will replace Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a researcher and former drug company executive, who will become a consultant to Operation Warp Speed. Dr. Kessler will share top responsibilities for the initiative with Gen. Gustave F. Perna, who will continue as chief operating officer, according to a Biden transition spokesman. Dr. Kessler’s responsibilities will cover manufacturing, distribution and the safety and efficacy of vaccines and therapeutics.” Sheila Kaplan reports for the New York Times.
Biden yesterday picked Jamie Harrison, a former South Carolina Democratic Party chair and 2020 Senate candidate, as his next chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Dan Merica, Jeff Zeleny and Kate Sullivan report CNN.
President-elect Joe Biden’s team has opened a new Twitter page for Biden — @PresElectBiden — but has criticized the social media giant for denying the incoming administration millions of existing White House followers. Jennifer Epstein reports for Bloomberg.
OTHER US DEVELOPMENTS
The Pentagon’s inspector general (IG) said yesterday that it would investigate whether the Defense Department has appropriate procedures in place to ensure white supremacists and other extremists are identified and prevented from joining or remaining in the military. “Our objective is to determine the extent to which the DoD and the Military Services have implemented policy and procedures that prohibit active advocacy and active participation related to supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes by active duty military personnel,” the IG’s office said. The probe is expected to launch next week. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
President Trump and top White House aides aggressively pushed the get-tough policy that caused migrant children to be separated from adults at the US-Mexico border, according to a Gene Hamilton, top official at Justice Department, in a new report from the department’s inspector general and other internal documents. Michael D. Shear reports for the New York Times.
The US has charged 14 leaders of the internal criminal gang MS-13 on terrorism charges, the Justice Department confirmed yesterday. Reuters reporting.
Donald Trump Jr. has been requested for interview by the DC attorney general’s office as part of its investigation into whether his father, President Trump, misused inaugural funds for his 2017 inauguration. Kara Scannell reports for CNN.
The Secret Service were instructed not to use any of the bathrooms inside the home of Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner — the service had to therefore rent a basement studio, paid for by US taxpayers, costing $3,000 a month and $100,000 in total. Peter Jamison, Carol D. Leonnig and Paul Schwartzman report for the Washington Post.
President Trump has ordered US Central Command for the Middle east expand its membership to include Israel in an effort to strengthen cooperation against Iran, U.S. officials said yesterday. “The move means that the U.S. Central Command would oversee American military policy involving both Israel and Arab nations, a departure from decades of U.S. military command structure put in place because of acrimony between Israel and some of the Pentagon’s Arab allies,” reports Michael R. Gordon and Gordon Lubold for the Wall Street Journal.
“Iran’s Revolutionary Guards fired “abundant” surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and tested locally manufactured new drones in a military exercise on Friday, state television reported.” Reuters reporting.
“What’s behind the significant build-up of US firepower in the Gulf” is explained by Alex Gatopoulos for Al Jazeera.
Gideon Saar, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top challenger in upcoming elections, has promised to take a tough stance on Iran and Palestine — but voiced confidence that he will be able to form effective relations with the incoming Biden administration. “I think I am in a better position than the prime minister to have an effective and true dialogue with President-elect (Joe) Biden and his administration,” Saar said. AP reporting.
China possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighur and other minority Muslims in Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) said yesterday, suggesting there was evidence of crimes against humanity and possible genocide. Al Jazeera reporting.
Top UN officials urge the US to reverse its decision to label Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebel group as a terrorist organization, stressing that the move will have dire humanitarian consequences for the country. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
Shortly after, the US rejected calls to review its decision, although “U.S. deputy ambassador, Richard Mills, told the Security Council the U.S. has listened to warnings of the terrorist designation’s humanitarian impact and will take measures to reduce the impact on aid deliveries and commercial imports.” AP reporting.
The Houthi chief negotiator said the group will not abandon peace talk efforts with the UN and Saudi Arabia despite the US listing the group. Aziz El Yaakoubi reports for Reuters.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 23.31 million and now killed over 388,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 93.23 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 1.996 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
An explainer to President-elect Joe Biden’s recently announced $1.9 trillion coronavirus economic relief package is provided by Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco for CNN.
A tracker for the number of people in the US who have received one dose of the vaccine is provided by the Washington Post.
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.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during a parade yesterday displayed several new submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Reuters reporting.
“There have been major violations of international law at two refugee camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the U.N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Thursday.” Reuters reporting.