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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Q-Anon followers discussed posing as National Guard members in Washington DC on Inauguration Day, an FBI intelligence report sent to law enforcement officials yesterday revealed. The report warned that Q-Anon followers and “lone wolves”, some of whom were present Jan. 6, had indicated their plans to go to the Capitol for Jan. 20 and had also downloaded and shared maps of locations in the District and discussed how they could interfere with security. The briefing did not however identify any specific attack. Carol D. Leonnig and Matt Zapotosky report for the Washington Post.
The Pentagon has authorized around 750 active-duty troops to support enhanced security measures in DC, according to two defense officials, with troops’ expertise spanning handling chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological and explosive weapons, as well as explosive ordnance disposal and medical teams skilled in trauma response, said an official speaking on the condition of anonymity. Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO
Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller yesterday said there is “no intelligence indicating an insider threat” is posed on Inauguration Day by military members. “As is normal for military support to large security events, the Department will vet National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C. While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital,” Miller wrote. “This type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events. However, in this case the scope of military participation is unique,” he added. Zachary Cohen reports for CNN.
The US Capitol complex was yesterday temporarily locked down during a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after a fire in a homeless encampment approximately a mile away sent plumes of smoke into the air, causing security concerns in an already on the edge city. Nick Niedzwiadek and Lara Seligman report for POLITICO.
BREACH AT THE CAPITOL
“There’s a reality there — the leaders of the House and the Senate don’t want the military up there. They don’t want to show they can’t control their own turf,” said Bill Pickle, who served as the Senate sergeant-at-arms from 2003 to 2007 and spoke to The Washington Post at House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving’s request. “Pickle confirmed the account of former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund, who previously told The Post that when he suggested bringing in the Guard, Irving responded that he was concerned about the “optics” of such a move. Irving did not consult first with his boss, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but thought he was reflecting her likely response, Pickle said.” Rosalind S. Helderman, Beth Reinhard, Karoun Demirjian and Carol D. Leonnig report for the Washington Post.
The woman accused of stealing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–CA)’s laptop and intending to sell it to Russians has been taken into custody in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, according to the Justice Department. The FBI said in an arrest warrant Sunday that Williams has been charged for illegally entering the Capitol and with disorderly conduct — but no charges of theft were confirmed. Her plan to sell the laptop to Russians reportedly fell through, although it is not clear if she still has the laptop or if it was destroyed. ABC 7 reporting.
The FBI’s probe of the attack on the Capitol is looking at whether there are links between extremist groups which helped to coordinate the Jan. 6 insurrection. “One of those newly charged was Robert Gieswein, 24, of Woodland Park, Colo. Charging documents and videos indicate he may have links to the three extremist groups that have drawn the most attention from the FBI: the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Some of the videos appear to include members who discussed storming the Capitol about an hour ahead of the riot.” Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu report for the Washington Post.
“The F.B.I. investigation into the Capitol siege, still in its very early stages, has identified at least six suspects with military links out of the more than 100 people who have been taken into federal custody or the larger number still under investigation. They include a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Texas, an Army officer from North Carolina and an Army reservist from New Jersey. Another person with military service was shot and killed in the assault.” Report By Eric Schmitt, Jennifer Steinhauer and Helene Cooper for the New York Times.
Five of President-elect Joe Biden’s national security Cabinet nominees — Avril Haines for director of national intelligence, Alejandro Mayorkas for homeland security secretary, Antony Blinken for secretary of state, Janet L. Yellen for treasury secretary and Lloyd J. Austin III for defense secretary — will face the first step of their confirmation hearings today. An explainer on what to look out for during the hearings is provided by Kate Sullivan for CNN.
There’s a chance those nominees will not be confirmed in time for Biden taking his oath of office at noon tomorrow, although some could be installed days later. “Even if the Senate manages to squeeze in some confirmations on Biden’s first full day in office, the road ahead is unclear for Austin and Mayorkas. Austin, a retired general whose military service ended in 2016, requires a waiver before he can take over as the Pentagon’s top civilian. Mayorkas, meanwhile, faces Republican grievances that as deputy homeland security secretary during the Obama administration, he was accused of using an immigrant visa program to secure investments for political allies’ pet projects — a charge Mayorkas has denied.” Karoun Demirjian reports for the Washington Post.
Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, will today announce his intention to ensure that there are no further attacks on US institutions like that witnessed Jan. 6, according to prepared remarks obtained by POLITICO. “If I should have the honor of being confirmed, I will do everything I can to ensure that the tragic loss of life, the assault on law enforcement, the desecration of the building that stands as one of the three pillars of our democracy, and the terror felt by you, your colleagues, staff, and everyone present, will not happen again,” Mayorkas’ statement reads. Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.
Biden has proposed an overhaul of immigration laws — “including an eight-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal status and an expansion of refugee admissions, along with an enforcement plan that deploys technology to patrol the border.” Seung Min Kim reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER US DEVELOPMENTS
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wants to avoid presiding over President Trump’s impeachment proceedings, multiple Republican and Democrat sources have said, stating that Roberts did not want to become the top target of the left during Trump’s impeachment trial. “He wants no further part of this,” one source said. Ryan Lizza, Rachael Bade, Tara Palmeri and Eugene Daniels report for POLITICO.
Trump is continuing to consider a list of pardons and commutations in his final days in office, which could cover between 60 to 100 people. Those who could benefit from Trump’s clemency powers include White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone, advisers including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, his daughter and son-in-law, respectively, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preett Bharara, as well as U.S. rapper Lil Wayne. Maggie Haberman, Kenneth P. Vogel and Dana Rubinstein report for the New York Times.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has raised concerns about Michael Ellis, former GOP operative and Trump loyalist, being installed as the top lawyer at the National Security Agency (NSA), sending a letter to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller demanding that Ellis not be installed to the position of general counsel at the NSA: “the attempt to install an unqualified Trump loyalist as NSA General Counsel just 72 hours prior to the start of a new Administration is highly irregular and highly suspect. This placement should not move forward,” the letter read. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
Moscow is ready for a rapid deal with the incoming Biden administration to extend the soon-to-expire New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a news conference yesterday. AP reporting.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 24.07 million and now killed over 399,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 95.65 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.043 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The White House confirmed that President Trump yesterday lifted travel entry bans imposed on non-US citizens travelling from Brazil and many European countries — the lift on the ban will take effect Jan. 26. Reuters reporting.
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.
A Russian court yesterday extended the detention of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny following his arrest by security forces upon his arrival back to the country. “The judge ruled to satisfy a request by police to extend Navalny’s detention until Feb. 15, Navalny’s lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, wrote on Twitter.” Patrick Reevell reports for ABC News.
Responding to the news, Navalny called for protests: “So I appeal to you,” he said. “Don’t keep quiet. Resist! Take to the streets! No one can protect us but ourselves, and there are so many of us that if we want to achieve something, we will achieve it.” Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.
Recent attacks by the Taliban have killed dozens across Afghanistan, despite peace talks underway between the government and the insurgents, officials said today. “A statement from the defense ministry said four army soldiers were killed late Monday night in Taliban attacks on checkpoints in Kunduz province … According to the ministry, 15 Taliban fighters were also killed and 12 were wounded.” AP reporting.