Early Edition: February 10, 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.

US CAPITOL ATTACK

Lawyers for Thomas Caldwell — a man who authorities say is a leader of the far-right Oath Keepers group and helped organize the attack on the Capitol — said during a new filing at court that he worked as a section chief for the FBI from 2009 to 2010 after retiring from the Navy, as well as holding “top Secret Security Clearance since 1979 and has undergone multiple Special Background Investigations in support of his clearance.” Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.

Over 200 people have now been charged with federal crimes in connection with the attack on the Capitol Jan. 6, according to a CNN analysis of court records and Justice Department announcements. Paul P. Murphy, Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen report for CNN.

“#StopTheSteal: Timeline of Social Media and Extremist Activities Leading to 1/6 Insurrection,” by Atlantic Council’s DFRLab for Just Security.

EXTREMISM IN RANKS

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday yesterday condemned two new racists incidents aboard warships, including a noose left on a Black sailor’s bed and hate speech graffiti. “The chain of command took both of those incidents seriously and immediately launched investigations, which are ongoing,” Gilday said in a message to the fleet. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.

The Pentagon is considering how best to thwart attempts by extremist groups to recruit service members, although “officials acknowledge that the task at hand is likely to prove difficult due to a lack of data on tracking incidents of extremism in the military,” reports Ellen Mitchell for The Hill.

SOLARWINDS HACK

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chair Marco Rubio (R-FL) yesterday criticized the “disjointed and disorganized” federal response to the SolarWinds hack and called for agencies to designate a leader, writing in a letter to Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines, FBI leaders, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the new chair of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee panel on cybersecurity, pledged to tackle a wide range of cybersecurity concerns, with an early and particular focus on strengthening election security and responding to the massive Russian SolarWinds hack on federal government systems. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT

The Senate voted 56 to 44 yesterday that the impeachment trial of former President Trump is constitutional following a highly charged and emotional case put forward by House impeachments managers, which included a 13-minute video capturing violent images of the Capitol attack along with Trump’s rhetoric. The likelihood of securing a conviction is dwindling after only six Republicans voted to support the constitutionality of the trial, with 44 voting against. Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox report for CNNThe six Republican senators who voted yesterday to proceed with the trial were: Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NE) and Patrick J. Toomey (PA). Thomas Kaplan reports for the New York Times.

Lead prosecutor Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) delivered an emotional speech, holding back his tears as he detailed the fear among lawmakers as rioters breached the Capitol building. “All around me people were calling their wives and their husbands, their loved ones, to say goodbye,” Raskin said, adding that his daughter and son-in-law hid under a lawmaker’s desk as “they thought they were going to die.” Mark Leibovich and Nicholas Fandos report for the New York Times.

House managers will formally kick off their case today against Trump: managers will have 16 hours over two days to present their case, followed by 16 hours over two days for Trump’s defense team. Each side will have the option to prompt a debate and vote on calling witness, although it’s unclear if either side will. Democrats’ case will center mainly on video and audio evidence. Rebecca Ballhaus and Siobhan Hughes reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Trump was unhappy with his team’s performance, sources say. By Kaitlan Collins, Jim Acosta, Paul LeBlanc and Pamela Brown report for CNN.

Some Republicans also criticized the performance of Trump’s legal team during yesterday’s proceedings. Trump’s defense team kicked-off with lawyer Bruce Castor, whose presentation was considered incoherent. The second attorney, David Schoen, “bobbled the timeline of the impeachment trial, blaming House Democrats for declining to send the article until Trump was out of office. Yet the Senate was on recess during that period — which made it impossible for Trump’s trial to start without the Senate deciding to reconvene on an emergency basis,” report Burgess Everett, Andrew Desiderio and Marianne Levine for POLITICO, adding, “Still, Trump’s attorney told reporters that he didn’t expect any changes to the legal team or its structure of arguments.”

“I thought the first attorney for the president today did not present a case, which surprised me. Did not make any arguments … The second attorney representing the president clearly did, and did a competent job. I’m puzzled by the presentation of the first attorney,” said Sen. Collins.

“The House managers were focused. They were organized. They relied upon both precedent, the Constitution and legal scholars. They made a compelling argument. President Trump’s team were disorganized. They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand … And when they talked about it, they kind of glided over, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments,” said Sen. Cassidy.

Lawyer Schoen defended his team’s performance — which has been highly reported as “meandering” — and made clear it would be “very well prepared” in future. Matthew Choi reports for POLITICO.

Key takeaways from yesterday’s first day of the impeachment trial are provided by the New York TimesWashington Post and CNN.

Live updates with the evidence used as it is presented at trial are provided by Washington Post.

OTHER US DEVELOPMENTS

Biden is scheduled to make his first visit to the Pentagon tomorrow as commander-in-chief, where he will meet with senior civil and military leaders and also address the Pentagon workforce. AP reporting.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold confirmation hearings Feb. 22 and 23 for President Biden’s pick for US attorney general, Merrick Garland. Marianne Levine reports for POLITICO.

Democratic lawmakers are weighing up their options for limiting presidential pardon power after Trump granted 143 pardons and commuted 94 sentences. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.

Harry Rogers of Hanover County, VA, a Ku Klux Klan member who drove his truck through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters near Richmond, VA, June 7, was sentenced yesterday to three years and eight months in prison, officials said. Azi Paybarah reports for the New York Times.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Maranian, head of the US Army War College, “has been suspended from his duties as the Commandant” of the school, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in a statement, adding, “This matter is under investigation and unrelated to his current position.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

Biden administration still intends to challenge a British judge’s decision not to allow the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the UK to the US to face hacking charges, the Justice Department said. The judge gave the United States until Friday to appeal the ruling. Mark Hosenball reports for Reuters.

The UN Refugee Agency held talks with the Biden administration about Central American asylum claimants being processed in their own countries, although it’s currently unclear how many will benefit from the policy, agency head Filippo Grandi said yesterday. Oliver Griffin reports for Reuters.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 27.19 million and now killed over 468,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 106.99 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.34 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.

MYANMAR

The recent military coup in Myanmar is a top priority for the US, which is currently conducting a review of assistance, making clear that those responsible would face “significant consequences,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said yesterday. Reuters reporting.

The statement comes as the country sees the fifth day of protests today, with thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets across the country. Reuters reporting.

SYRIA

A divide between UN Security Council (UNSC) members has led to no progress being made on a joint declaration on war-torn Syria. Syria’s main ally, Russia, repeatedly blocked negotiations, diplomats said. “The current divisions in the international community need to be bridged,” UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said, adding that without “constructive international diplomacy” on Syria, it was unlikely that “any track – constitutional track or any other – will really move forward.” Al Jazeera reporting.

There have been five rounds of UNSC preliminary discussions on Syria but those ended Jan. 29 without any progress made. The Security Council could not agree on a press statement that would have expressed regret “that 17 months after the launch of the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee, the drafting of a constitutional reform … had not begun,” reports AP.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

A series of bombs targeting Kabul police Wednesday has killed a district police officer, his bodyguard and also wounded five more, officials said. “No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts, which were all caused by so-called sticky bombs, explosive devices attached to vehicles that are remotely detonated or set off by timers,” reports AP.

Russia has issued an international arrest warrant against Leonis Volkov, the ally of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. 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)