Early Edition: April 14, 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

U.S. RELATIONS

President Biden dispatched an unofficial delegation of ex-U.S. officials to Taiwan yesterday in a show of support for the island amid tensions with China, according to a senior administration official and a State Department spokesperson. “That unofficial delegation is comprised of former Sen. Chris Dodd and former senior State Department officials Richard Armitage and James Steinberg,” reports Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler for CNN.

The Biden administration is advancing on its $23 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that was approved under the Trump administration, which will include 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, around 18 MQ-9B unmanned aerial systems, and air-to-air and air-to-ground projectiles. “We can confirm that that the Administration intends to move forward with these proposed defense sales to the UAE, even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials to ensure we have developed mutual understandings with respect to Emirati obligations before, during, and after delivery,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.

During a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a White House readout of the call. “The President voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions,” the White House said in a statement, adding, “Biden reaffirmed his goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with U.S. interests, and proposed a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.” Brett Samuel reports for The Hill.

A bipartisan group of House Foreign Affairs Committee lawmakers are urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “urgently push” Saudi Arabia to lift sea blockades and an embargo on ports placed on Yemen, a letter signed yesterday reveals. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.

Iran says that it intends to enrich uranium to 60%, a record level, following the attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Kareem Fahim and Loveday Morris report for the Washington Post.

AFGHANISTAN

President Biden will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on America, several U.S. officials said. “Biden will lay out his vision for the way forward in Afghanistan and the timeline for the withdrawal in remarks Wednesday afternoon, The White House said,” AP reports.

The news of a full troop withdrawal has attracted bipartisan backlash from the likes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee; and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.). Jordain Carney and Rebecca Kheel report for The Hill.

Former President Trump could benefit from Biden’s decision, writes Richard Hanania for NBC News.

Turkey, along with the U.N. and Qatar, will host a peace summit for Afghanistan – the Istanbul Conference on the Afghan Peace Process – from April 24 to May 4, a statement on the United Nations Secretary-General website said.

JAN 6 CAPITOL ATTACK

The Capitol Police had clearer prior warnings of the Capitol attack than was previously thought, including that “Congress itself is the target” however, officers were told by leaders not to use aggressive tactics when attempting to fend off the mob, according to a Capitol Police inspector general (IG) report entitled Review of the Events Surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Takeover of the U.S. Capitol,” which the Times has reviewed and will go before a Capitol Hill hearing tomorrow. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.

Key Findings of the Inspector General’s Report on the Capitol attack are provided by Nicholas Fandos for the New York Times.

Members of the Oath Keepers are thought to have stored weapons in a hotel in Arlington, VA, as part of a “quick reaction force” that could be deployed into the nation’s capital, federal prosecutors said. Marshall Cohen reports for CNN.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would consider abandoning a 9/11 style commission to investigate the Capitol attack if progress remained glacial, but would be open to a select committee probing the matter. Deva Cole repoprts for CNN.

RACIAL INJUSTICE AND POLICING

A House committee will today take an unprecedented vote on a bill to create a commission to study providing federal reparations to the descendants of Black slaves, a bill that was first proposed in 1989 by former Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and which faces a steep hill before it makes it into law. “The bill would establish a 13-person commission that would study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination in the United States from before the country’s founding to today. The commission would then submit to Congress its findings and ‘appropriate remedies’ on how best to compensate Black Americans,” Marianna Sotomayor reports for the Washington Post.

Senate leaders are set to advance a bipartisan legislative measure aimed at investigating and ending hate crimes against Asian Americans. “Both sides cautioned that the tentative framework could still fall apart, but senators signaled a willingness to merge various proposals that could lead to bipartisan passage of a bill by the end of the week … Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), the main sponsor of the hate-crime legislation, told reporters Tuesday that she is willing to broaden her bill to more thoroughly capture varied instances of anti-Asian crimes,” Paul Kane reports for the Washington Post.

Robert Williams, a Detroit man, has sued Detroit police after being wrongly identified and arrested as a shoplifter by the department’s facial recognition software in one of the first lawsuits to challenge the controversial technology. “The case could fuel criticism of police investigators’ use of a controversial technology that has been shown to perform worse on people of color … [and] could heighten the legal challenges for a technology that is largely unregulated in the country, even as it has become a prolific investigative tool used by police forces and federal investigators. While the software has been banned by more than a dozen cities nationwide, it has been cited in a growing number of criminal cases, including in the landmark investigation of rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, reports Drew Harwell for the Washington Post.

Findings are soon expected from an Army fact-finding probe into why military helicopters were authorized to fly over protesters during demonstrations in D.C. last June after the death of Floyd. Findings are “not expected to deal with any punishments, the officials added. Instead, a key area of focus will be that existing regulations and procedures did not anticipate the type of unrest that occurred. One official told CNN that the regulations governing National Guard support during civil incidents are now likely to be updated … The commanding general of the DC National Guard Major General William Walker was not a focus of this report, the officials said,” Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.

Key takeaways from day 12 of the criminal trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd are provided by Will Wright for the New York Times.

Minnesota Police Officer Kim Potter and Police Chief Tim Gannon have both resigned two days after the fatal shooting of unarmed Black man Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. Potter, who shot Wright, said she had intended to use her taser but mistakenly grabbed her gun. AP reporting.

Mayor Mike Elliott said yesterday that he had asked Gov. Tim Walz to reassign Wright’s case to the state attorney general. Quint Forgey reports for POLITICO.

Rusten Shesky, the Kensoha police officer who in August shot Jacob Black, paralyzing him from the waist down, will not face disciplinary action after he was “found to have been acting within policy,” according to a statement yesterday from Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis. “The determination was made after an outside investigation and an independent expert review, the statement said,” Doha Madani reports for NBC News.

ODNI ANNUAL THREAT ASSESSMENT

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) yesterday released its 2021 Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community.

The report raises concerns about the growing global power of China, which represents one of the most significant threats to the U.S., although a military confrontation with the country is not excepted, instead “suggests that so-called gray-zone battles for power, which are meant to fall short of inciting all-out war, will intensify with intelligence operations, cyberattacks and global drives for influence,” reports Julia E. Barnes for the New York Times. “The assessment highlights the opportunities and challenges for the Biden administration. Iran, for instance, has not advanced its work on a nuclear weapon, potentially giving President Biden some room to maneuver. But it paints a grim prognosis for a peace deal in Afghanistan, a day before Mr. Biden is set to announce that he will withdraw American forces by September. Critics could use the report to suggest that the president is ignoring intelligence agencies’ predictions as he pushes forward with the drawdown,” Barnes adds.

“China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas — especially economically, militarily, and technologically — and is pushing to change global norms,” the report said. “China seeks to use coordinated, whole-of-government tools to demonstrate its growing strength and compel regional neighbors to acquiesce to Beijing’s preferences, including its claims over disputed territory,” the report says.” Greg Myre reports for NPR.

“The economic fallout from the pandemic is likely to create or worsen instability in at least a few—and perhaps many—countries, as people grow more desperate in the face of interlocking pressures that include sustained economic downturns, job losses, and disrupted supply chains,” the report warns. Katie Bo Williams and Zachary Cohen repoprt for CNN

IMMIGRATION

A group of Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden yesterday urging him to prioritize H.R. 1909/S. 747, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which would offer a pathway to citizenship to over 5 million undocumented essential workers in the second part of the president’s two-part infrastructure package, the American Families Plan, set to address education and childcare. Daniella Diaz reports for CNN.

The state of Texas sued the Biden administration yesterday in an effort to reinstate a Trump-era policy that forced migrants arriving at the southern border to wait in Mexico while applying for asylum. “The result of this arbitrary and capricious decision has been a huge surge of Central American migrants, including thousands of unaccompanied minors, passing through Mexico in order to advance meritless asylum claims at the U.S. border,” the suit read, filed alongside Missouri in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.

The Guatemalan government yesterday rejected claims from the White House earlier this week that it had signed an agreement with the U.S. to increase border security. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.

GAETZ INVESTIGATION

Joel Greenberg, associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz, has since December been cooperating with federal prosecutors who are investigating whether both the men had sexual relationships with underage girls, according to two people familiar with the matter. “Greenberg, a onetime county tax collector, disclosed to investigators that he and Mr. Gaetz had encounters with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex, the people said … Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation, the people said. He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him — including fraud — could undermine his credibility as a witness,” Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.

Details of trip Gaetz and others made to the Bahamas in September 2018 are sparse yet critical to the investigation. “In the Bahamas, Gaetz was joined by two GOP allies: Halsey Beshears, then a state legislator, and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and Republican fundraiser for DeSantis, according to three sources, including one who was part of the group,” Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon report for POLITICO.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 31.34 million and now killed over 563,400 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 137.54 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.94 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The Defense Department has suspended its use of the Johnson &. Johnson vaccine for military members. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.

A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. 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. 

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)