Early Edition: February 12, 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

Five rioters allegedly linked to the far-right group the Proud Boys were yesterday arrested on numerous charges, including conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without unlawful authority, and disorderly conduct. William Chrestman, Christopher Kuehne, Louis Enrique Colon, Felicia Konold and Cory Konold have all been charged — with the latter four charged together for conspiracy, and Chrestman charged separately, although the affidavit said he was connected to the others. Laurel Wamsley reports NPR.

A leader of the paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, who planned and led rioters to the Capitol, believed she was responding to calls from Trump himself, prosecutors have indicated: “As the inauguration grew nearer, [Jessica] Watkins indicated that she was awaiting direction from President Trump,” prosecutors wrote in a filing yesterday morning. “Her concern about taking action without his backing was evident in a November 9, 2020, text in which she stated, ‘I am concerned this is an elaborate trap. Unless the POTUS himself activates us, it’s not legit. The POTUS has the right to activate units too. If Trump asks me to come, I will. Otherwise, I can’t trust it.’ Watkins had perceived her desired signal by the end of December,” the filing continued. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.

Former US Navy intelligence officer and FBI official Thomas Caldwell, who was recently arrested for his involvement in the siege, helped organize a group of trained fighters to attack the Capitol, assisting in their coordination, and was also in contact with members of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, it was revealed during a hearing where prosecutors asked a federal judge to detain Caldwell pending trial. “Prosecutors allege Caldwell used his military and law enforcement background to plan violence — including possible snipers and weapons stashed on a boat along the Potomac River — weeks ahead of the Capitol insurrection. Caldwell, of Berryville, Va., is charged on counts of conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing, destruction of government property, and aiding and abetting.” Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu report for the Washington Post.

The FBI has arrested two Kentucky men linked with the self-dubbed Boogaloo Bois, a far-right anti-government movement, with John Subleski accused of inciting riots in Louisville on the same say as the Capitol attack. The other man has been arrested for allegedly menacing Kentucky police officers during a protest Dec. 25. Matthew Choi reports for POLITICO.

A court yesterday rejected a challenge from Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio against a previous order which banned him from returning to Washington DC, following his arrest Jan. 4 for misdemeanor and felony charges. A Feb. 4 filing by Judge Robert Okun ruled that the condition not to return to the capital was the “least restrictive condition consistent with public safety” given “his prior criminal history.” Al Jazeera reporting.

The FBI is narrowing its list of suspects in connection with the death of US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, with one theory among investigators being that the suspects sprayed an irritant, maybe bear spray, which caused the officer to suffer a fatal reaction, a U.S. official briefed on the investigation said Wednesday. By Evan Perez, David Shortell and Caroline Kelly report for CNN.

The FBI is using Twitter to call for help in identifying rioters. Bureau officials yesterday posted a photo of a man on Twitter, with one picture showing what appeared to be a metal pole or similar object in his hand. Officials said the man was wanted for his involvement in “violence at the U.S. Capitol,” but provided no further information. John Bowden reports for The Hill.

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT

House impeachment managers yesterday concluded their case against former President Trump, urging the Senate to convict him for inciting insurrection and warning of the potential future violence if they acquit. Managers focused on establishing a causal link between rioters’ actions and Trump’s direction, his history of condoning violence, and the reality that his inaction during the riots and his later claim that his conduct was “totally appropriate” is a sign that he could try to incite his followers again. By Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju, Kaitlan Collins and Clare Foran report CNN.

Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) put his questions directly to senators: “Is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he is ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?,” Raskin asked. “Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that? If he gets back into office and it happens again, we have no one to blame but ourselves.” Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim reports for the Washington Post.

Trump may have been personally warned that Vice President Mike Pence was in physical danger at the Capitol just moments before he took to Twitter to say that Pence lacked courage. Trump posted on Twitter just 11 minutes before live footage showed Pence being rushed down some stairs by Secret Service. Although the precise time of the conversation is unknown, apparently, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) spoke to Trump on the phone and informed him about Pence’s exit, Tuberville told reporters yesterday: “I said, ‘Mr. President, they just took our vice president out, they’re getting ready to drag me out of here. I got to go.’” Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey report for the Washington Post.

Most GOP senators appeared unswayed by the evidence presented, with Trump expected to retain the necessary two-third votes to acquit. “While a handful of Republican senators may break from the former president, others seemed to go out of their way on Thursday to express impatience with the trial,” report Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos for the New York Times.

Three GOP senators  Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT)  met with Trumps defense team yesterday evening, apparently to familiarize themselves with procedure, claimed Trump lawyer David Schoen. When questioned over whether meeting the Senate jurors was appropriate, Schoen said: “Oh yeah, I think that’s the practice of impeachment,” adding, “There’s nothing about this thing that has any semblance of due process whatsoever.” Manu Raju and Alex Rogers report for CNN.

Trumps defense team is expected to finish its case in one day, sources said. “Using videos of Democratic lawmakers, they plan to argue that Democrats glorified violence by re-creating the January 6 riot, will claim the trial is unconstitutional and will stress Trump’s First Amendment rights,” reports Caitlin Collins for CNN.

What else to expect today from Trumps defense team. Zachary B. Wolf reports for CNN.

The trial shed further light on the extent of police officers injuries sustained at the hands of rioters, with at least 138 officers injured, including one officer who lost the tip of a finger. Others were hit with baseball bats, flag poles and pipes, with one officer losing consciousness. “Capitol Police officers also sustained injuries that will be with them for the rest of their lives,” said House manager David Cicilline (D-.RI), adding that officers had said that the Capitol riot “was scarier to them than their time in combat.” Michael S. Schmidt and Luke Broadwater report for the New York Times.

President Biden and his aides have tried to give as little attention as possible to the trial in order to remain focused on my job, Biden told reporters yesterday, “to deal with the promises I made. And we all know we have to move on.” Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.

Although Biden did indicate that he had at least been keeping an eye on the trial, although not in real-time. “I, like other Americans, watched the news,” Biden said yesterday. Anne Gearan reports for the Washington Post.

Key takeaways from yesterdays impeachment trial are provided by the New York TimesWashington Postand CNN.

Access to all the evidence presented in the trial is provided by Washington Post.

EXTREMISM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin yesterday said that he will begin a top-level review of efforts to address extremism in the ranks as well as reviewing policies and procedures in place, with a focus on ensuring military leaders are able to effectively deal with the issue and to make sure “our servicemembers are reminded of what we are about, reminded of the values that we hold dear in this organization.” Jennifer Griffin reports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Top Air Force leaders yesterday announced a comprehensive assessment of extremism in the service and called for its members to stand against extremist views. “The vast majority of us — whether active duty, guard, reserve, or civilian —spends every day upholding our Nation’s laws, policies, and standards. However, there is a small subset who far short and are eroding the respect our Nation’s civilians have for its military,”read a letter by acting Air Force Secretary John Roth, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Space Force Chief Gen. John Raymond and the chief master sergeants of the Air Force and Space Force. “While the First Amendment of the Constitution recognizes freedom of expression, it is our obligation to stand against extremism, as we should with anything that threatens to undermine good order and discipline, trust, and our culture of respect,” the letter continued. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

In an effort to educate and tackle extremism, the Biden administration may extend Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants to studies as part of a wider program to combat violence described as a top priority. “The new grants would expand on those funded at the end of the Trump administration by DHS’Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention, which included over $500,000 for a project at American University that studies the ‘growing threat of violent white supremacist extremist disinformation’ The program is aimed at preventing spread of the disinformation through what researchers call ‘attitudinal inoculation,” reports Julian Ainsley for NBC News.

David Reeves, who recently made a series of threats against Biden during phone calls with the White House and Secret Service, has been arrested on federal charges, officials said yesterday. Azi Paybarah reports for the New York Times.

IMMIGRATION

The Biden administration is considering a policy which would allow migrants at the US-Mexican border to enter the US in order to apply for asylum, a move which would reverse former President Trumpremain in Mexicopolicy. Department of Homeland Security documents, obtained by BuzzFeed News, indicate that the policy would allow some of those waiting at the border to enter via three different ports of entry. Hamed Aleaziz reports for BuzzFeed News.

Biden has formally ended Trumps Feb. 2019 emergency declaration of a national emergency at the US-Mexico border, which was used to justify the construction of the border wall. However, the 3,600 U.S. troops deployed at the border will remain there for now, the Pentagon said. Quint Forgey and Lara Seligman report for POLITICO.

OTHER US DEVELPOMENTS

30 global nuclear security experts have called for the Biden administration to restore US leadership on fissile materials, sending a letter to around six officials at the State Department, the Department of Energy and the National Security Council. “U.S. leadership on this issue has weakened and international progress has slowed,”wrote experts, including Sharon Squassoni of George Washington University and William Tobey of Harvard University, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Reuters. Timothy Gardner reports for Reuters.

Former President Trump was much sicker from Covid-19 than he or his medical team purported: he had “extremely depressed blood oxygen levels at one point and a lung problem associated with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus,” with concerns at one point that he would require a ventilator, officials familiar with his condition have said. Noah Weiland, Maggie Haberman, Mark Mazzetti and Annie Karni report for the New York Times.

Charges have been dropped against the two officers videoed pushing a 75-year-old protester to the ground during last years Black Lives Matter protests, which left the elderly man with a fractured skill and brain injury. AP reporting.

The Biden administration will announce today its plans to revoke Medicaid work requirements introduced by Trump. “Federal health officials will withdraw their predecessors’ invitation to states to apply for approval to impose such work requirements and will notify 10 states granted permission that it is about to be retracted, according to a draft plan obtained by The Washington Post.” Dan Diamond and Amy Goldstein report for the Washington Post.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 27.39 million and now killed over 475,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 107.87 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.37 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The Biden administration has finalized an additional 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, Biden said yesterday. “The deals for 100 million additional doses each from vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer will boost the country’s supply to 600 million doses — enough to inoculate 300 million people,” reports Matthew Choi and Anna Kambhampaty for POLITICO.

Biden has yet to announced his pick to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is causing frustration among FDA veterans. Laurie McGinley reports for the Washington Post.

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 Biden administration yesterday named the military leaders its recent sanctions target: top military commander Min Aung Hlaing, his deputy Soe Win, as well as four members of the State Administration Council. “Today’s sanctions need not be permanent,” the White House said in a statement. “Burma’s military should immediately restore power to the democratically elected government, end the state of emergency, release all those unjustly detained, and ensure peaceful protestors are not met with violence.” AP reporting.

More than 350 have been detained by the military, including state officials, activists and journalists, said Nada al-Nashif, deputy U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. “[U.N.] Security Council resolutions dealing with similar situations have mandated sanctions, arms embargoes, and travel bans, and calling for judicial action at the International Criminal Court or ad hoc tribunals. All of these options should be on the table,” Thomas Andrews, the U.N. human rights investigator for the country, told the U.N. Human Rights Council Friday. Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge report for Reuters.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators amassed yesterday in protest of the military coup. Reuters reporting.

Six shots were fired by police officers in an effort to disperse protestoees in the city of Mawlamyine, video footage on Facebook showed. Reuters reporting.

Social media giant Facebook has restricted Myanmars military accounts for spreading misinformation. Jill Disis and Pauline Lockwood report for CNN.

Military leaders have granted amnesty to over 23,000 Myanmar prisoners and 55 foreign prisoners. Al Jazeera reporting.

Hlaing, the countrys new junta leader, urged protesters to stop mass gatherings as the country sees its sixth day of protests, citing concerns over the spread of Covid-19. Reuters reporting.

RUSSIA

Russia clashed with the US and Europe Thursday over the nearly seven-year conflict in eastern Ukraine, where officials from the US and Europe accused Russia of blocking any solution on the conflict. Al Jazeera reporting.

Russia is willing to cut ties with the EU if economic sanctions are used. Reuters reporting.

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has appeared in court again, this time on charges of defaming a World War Two veteran. Anton Zverev and Tom Balmforth report for Reuters.

US RELATIONS

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had his first phone call with South Koreas new foreign minister, Chung Eui-yong, reaffirming the US-South Korea alliance and commitment to addressing nuclear weapons in the Korean peninsula. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.

Blinken also held his first call with UN Secretary-General Antonia Guterres. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.

President Biden is yet to have a direct call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has raised eyebrows. Kylie Atwood, Oren Liebermann, Andrew Carey and Amir Tal report for CNN.

Blinken has refused to commit to the idea of occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, stating the parties need to get together directly and negotiate these so-called final status issues. Al Jazeera reporting.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A secret ballot between International Criminal Court (ICC) member states will be held today to vote for the courts new prosecutor, following the recent failing to reach a consensus on the election. Al Jazeera reporting.

Scores of women have been raped in Ethiopias northerly Tigray region, authorities have confirmed, in the chaotic aftermath of an armed conflict last year that ousted the local ruling party. Reuters reporting.

A United Nations convoy has been attacked on the outskirts of Afghanistans capital Kabul, with unidentified gunmen killing five Afghan security force members who were escorting the international agencys vehicles. Al Jazeera reporting.

The president of Libyas newly elected interim government arrived Thursday in the eastern city of Benghazi, the stronghold of the divided countrys eastern factions, as part of a campaign to foster unity ahead of national elections in December. AP reporting.

The Hamas militant group ruling Gaza has replenished its arsenal since a 2014 war with Israel and now has a vast collection of rockets, guided missiles and drones, a senior Israeli military commander said Thursday. AP reporting.

China barred Britains BBC World News from its television networks on Friday and Hong Kongs public broadcaster said it would stop relaying BBC World Service radio, a week after Britain revoked Chinese state televisions broadcast licence. 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)