Early Edition: January 25, 2021

A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend.

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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend. Here’s today’s news.

FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP

House impeachment managers are expected to send Trump’s impeachment article to the Senate today, the first step in kicking off the highly-contentious and debated Senate impeachment trial of the former president. Managers will walk the single article from the House to the Senate later today, where Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD), the lead impeachment manager, will read the article on the floor. Tomorrow, senators will be sworn in as jurors for the trial, followed by a two-week period for pre-trial briefs, with the trial expected to get underway the week of Feb. 8. Jeremy Herb reports for CNN.

Around 5,000 National Guard troops are expected to remain in Washington DC due to “impeachment security concerns,” four people familiar with the matter said, citing fear of possible mass demonstrations taking place the week of the trial. Andrew Desiderio, Lara Seligman and Natasha Bertrand report for POLITICO.

Earlier this month, Trump considered ousting then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and replacing him with Jefferey Clark, a Justice Department lawyer and Trump loyalist, in an effort to push unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, according to a department official, with Trump eventually deciding against the move over fear of mass walkouts. Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.

MILITARY REFORM

The White House is set to reverse former President Trump’s transgender military ban as soon as today, sources familiar with the decision confirmed, suggesting President Biden could sign the executive order shortly after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s ceremonial event at the White House today. Bo Erickson, David Martin, Ed O’Keefe and Ellee Watson report for CBS News.

Defense Secretary Austin, in his first directive since taking his position, has ordered a review of the military’s sexual assault prevention programs, requesting senior Pentagon leaders to send to him information on their policies and efforts to address sexual assault and harassment, as well as calling for a review of the accountability measures in place. “Biden has ordered a 90-day commission to pursue solutions to sexual assault in the military. We will aggressively support that effort. But I do not want to wait 90 days to take action,” Austin wrote in a memo issued Saturday. Shawna Mizelle reports for CNN.

BREACH AT THE CAPITOL

A US Secret Service agent is the brother of an alleged Capitol rioter facing five charges linked to the Capitol insurrection. The agent, Preston Fairlamb III, brother of accused-rioter Scott Fairlamb, apparently led former President Obama’s detail. Elizabeth Joseph and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.

Concerns over swamping local courthouses has led federal law enforcement officials to consider whether to limit how many they charge for riots at the Capitol, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions. The private discussions are in their early stages and no agreement has been reached as to whether those who actually entered the Capitol building could escape prosecution. Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu report for the Washington Post.

A rioter who breached the Capitol later posted on Twitter: “Assassinate AOC,” in an apparent reference and response to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)’s post calling for Trump to be impeached. Jaclyn Peiser reports for the Washington Post.

Following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, 38 US Capitol Police officers have tested positive for Covid-19, the head of the officers’ union said Saturday. Cases are also said to be increasing among DC National Guard members stationed around the Capitol. Tom Jackman reports for the Washington Post.

RESPONSE TO EXTREMISM

President Biden has ordered the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct a threat assessment and review of extremism in the US. AP reporting.

Congress intends to add provisions to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to tackle extremism at the Pentagon and other federal agencies. “A defense official told The Hill that of the 143 notifications of investigation the Pentagon received from the FBI last year of former and current military members, 68 concerned domestic extremism cases. The official stressed that the vast majority were former military, many with unfavorable discharge records.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

“Rank-and-file House Democrats are calling for a bipartisan commission that would more broadly focus on the growing threat of domestic terrorism and violent extremism after this month’s insurrection. And top Republicans on the House Administration, Homeland Security and Oversight committees — Reps. Rodney Davis (Ill.), John Katko (N.Y.), and James Comer (Ky.) — have rolled out legislation creating a Jan. 6 commission that would be comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans.” Scott Wong reports for The Hill.

US-CHINA RELATIONS

China flew over a dozen warplanes, including nuclear-capable H-6K bombers and four J-16 fighter jets, into Taiwan’s airspace Saturday, with Taiwan deploying jets to “monitor” the intrusion. The move prompted the Biden administration to release a statement urging Beijing to stop its actions and pledging support of the self-governing democratic island. “We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. CNN reporting.

Amid tension between China and Taiwan, a group of US aircraft carriers entered the South China Sea yesterday, with the stated purpose of promoting “freedom of the seas,” according to a statement by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.

China said US presence in the South China Sea is not a good thing for peace in the region. Cate Cadell reports for Reuters.

Explainer to the South China Sea tension is provided by Martin Petty for Reuters.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has underscored US support of Japan’s defense of a group of East China Sea islets that China also claims. “Austin, in talks with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, confirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, which stipulates U.S. defence obligations to Japan, covers the uninhabited islands, the Pentagon said in a statement.” Reuters

US-ISRAEL RELATIONS

Its final days, the Trump administration secretly eased sanctions imposed in 2017 by the Treasury Department on an Israeli billionaire accused of corrupt and abusive mining practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The reversal by the Treasury came after an appeal by lobbyists with close ties to former President Donald J. Trump who were hired by Dan Gertler, the Israeli billionaire, including the lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz, who helped represent Mr. Trump during his first impeachment, and Louis J. Freeh, a former F.B.I. director.” Eric Lipton reports for the New York Times.

The Biden administration supports Israel on regional security matters and in advancing the country’s regional normalization agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan told his Israeli counterpart, according to a statement yesterday. Reuters reporting.

OTHER US RELATIONS

Biden administration will review the Feb 2020 US-Taliban deal, said National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Emily Horne late Friday. Al Jazeera reporting.

The State Department has launched a review into the Trump administration’s designation of Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebel group as a foreign terrorist organization, a spokesperson said Friday. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.

22 aid groups yesterday called for the Biden administration to revoke the designation of the rebel group, warning of the lives and peace process at stake. Reuters reporting.

Yemen’s warring sides  Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government  yesterday resumed prisoner exchange talks in Jordan. Al Jazeera reporting.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 25.12 million and now killed over 419,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 99.26 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.13 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report 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.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

Over 3,000 protestors have been arrested in Russia after thousands swarmed the streets of 70 cities in support of Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader arrested last weekend upon his return to Moscow. Robyn Dixon and Isabelle Khurshudyan report for the Washington Post.

Russia accused the US of encouraging protests but said that it’s still open to dialogue with President Biden. Al Jazeera reporting.

The UAE cabinet yesterday approved the establishment of an embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, state media said, adding that Israel has opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi. Reuters reporting.

Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a “minor face-off” last week along the countries’ disputed border in the eastern Himalayas, the Indian army said today, adding, it “was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols.” AP reporting.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday said it had taken into custody Mahamat Abdel Kain, a former Central African Republic commander of the “Seleka” faction suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity, after he surrendered to the court and was arrested under an arrest warrant issued Jan. 2019. Reuters reporting. 

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)