Early Edition: April 29, 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

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

Federal agencies are investigating at least two possible energy attacks in the U.S., one close to the White House in November  the attacks are similar to those reported to have taken place against U.S. personnel overseas. “Defense officials briefed lawmakers on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees on the matter earlier this month, including on the incident near the White House. That incident, which occurred near the Ellipse, the large oval lawn on the south side of the White House, sickened one National Security Council official, according to multiple current and former US officials and sources familiar with the matter,” report Katie Bo Williams and Jeremy Herb for CNN.

Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction has been added to the charge sheets of the three men charged in October with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), with two of the accused also charged with allegedly possessing an unregistered destructive device. “The new charges come as part of a superseding indictment filed Wednesday by the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan that says [Adam] Fox, [Barry] Croft and [Daniel Joseph] Harris allegedly intended to use destructive devices to facilitate their plot to kidnap the governor by ‘harming and hindering the governor’s security detail and any responding law enforcement officers,’” reports Sonia Moghe and Devan Cole for CNN.

The Justice Department has repealed a Trump-era policy that cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to “sanctuary cities” that limited cooperation with federal immigration authorities. “In an internal memo seen by Reuters, acting head of the Office of Justice Programs Maureen Henneberg said that prior grant recipients, including cities, counties and states that were recipients of the department’s popular $250 million annual grant program for local law enforcement, will no longer be required to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a condition of their funding … She also ordered staff to take down any pending Justice Department grant applications with similar strings attached and start the process over again,” Reuters reporting.

Samantha Power will lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), following confirmation by the Senate yesterday in a 68-26 vote. Jordain Carney reports for The Hill.

Pro-Trump supporter Brendan Hunt was yesterday convicted of making threats to kill U.S. officials and lawmakers and faces up to 10 years in prison. Shayna Jacobs reports for the Washington Post.

A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge yesterday refused to dismiss Amazon’s lawsuit that alleges that the Trump administration interfered in the Pentagon’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract award to Microsoft Corp. Microsoft was awarded the contract in October 2019 but Amazon quickly filed a suit alleging “improper influence.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate yesterday rolled out legislation that would create a National Guard-style program to help protect critical systems against increasing cyberattacks from State actors and cybercriminals. “The Civilian Cyber Security Reserve Act would establish a civilian reserve program to provide cybersecurity training for individuals who have previously worked for either the U.S. federal government or armed services. They would then be available as resources for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to boost federal cybersecurity protections,” reports Maggie Miller for The Hill.

A Chinese businessman pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that he smuggled marine technology out of the U.S. for use by a Chinese military university involved in developing underwater drones. Shuren Qin pleaded guilty illegally exporting to China devices called hydrophones that can be used to monitor sound underwater. Reuters reporting.

The Republican-controlled Florida House yesterday passed on a party-line vote of 77-40 a controversial bill that would add a raft of restrictions to the voting process in the southern state. “Because the House added significant amendments to the bill, which had previously passed the State Senate, the legislation now faces a final vote in the full Senate before it heads to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, who is expected to sign it,” report Nick Corasaniti and Patricia Mazzei for the New York Times.

RUDY GIULIANI

Federal agents yesterday searched the Manhattan apartment and office of Rudy Giuliani, escalating the two-year criminal probe into Giuliani’s links with Ukraine during the Trump presidency. “The FBI also arrived Wednesday morning at the D.C.-area home of another attorney who had dealings with Ukrainians and remains close to Giuliani and Trump, Victoria Toensing, and took her cellphone pursuant to a search warrant, according to a person familiar with the episode. Toensing’s home was not searched and officials indicated that she is not a focus of the probe, the person said,” report Josh Gerstein, Meridith Mcgraw and Betsy Woodruff Swan for POLITICO.

Giuliani’s lawyer said the warrants referenced an investigation into potential violation of foreign lobbying laws and that it sought communications between Giuliani and people including a former columnist for The Hill, John Solomon. Giuliani also received a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in May. Erica Orden and Paula Reid report for CNN.

Five key things to remember aboutGiuliani and Ukraine by Chris Cillizza for CNN.

JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK

Lawyers for those suspected of riots on Jan. 6 will begin a tour of the Capitol on Monday, led by the Capitol Police. “Monday is one of five dates in May and June offered to defense counsel seeking to retrace their clients’ footsteps ahead of potential trials and plea deals stemming from the mob attack on Congress. The lawyers are under strict orders not to ask the police officers anything about what transpired … In addition to Monday’s tour, defense attorneys for the alleged rioters are invited to visit the Capitol on May 8, May 9, May 31 and June 5,” reports Kyle Cheney for POLITICO.

Unseen videos were released yesterday by the Justice Department showing the alleged attack on Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and other law enforcement agents. “The videos have been cited as evidence in the assault and conspiracy cases against two men – Julian Khater, 32, of State College, Penn., and George Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, W. Va … The videos have been described by prosecutors and played in court, but have not previously been made widely available,” Tom Dreisbach reports for NPR.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) yesterday pushed back on the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s comments that there was “no attempt to delay the deployment of the National Guard” during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Following Milley’s interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Pelosi said: “That isn’t false and I was there and I can attest to what happened … But let’s hear people talk about it in a commission to find the truth about January 6,” adding, “I have the highest regard for Gen. Milley, but he doesn’t know the full picture if he presenting the characterization that he just presented … The fact is that they could’ve been there very much sooner and it would’ve been much less destruction,” Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.

U.S. RELATIONS

President Biden voiced his concerns about Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the nation’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and security, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said yesterday. Reuters reporting.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday warned Turkey and other U.S. allies against purchasing weapons systems from Russia, threatening that such purchases could result in sanctions and strain ties with the administration. “Speaking at a virtual event, Blinken singled out Turkey as it undergoes talks with Russia for a second purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft weapons system, saying it could be penalized under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA),” reports Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.

“A senior interagency delegation [of U.S. envoys] will be traveling [to the Middle East] over the coming week to discuss a number of important matters related to U.S. national security and ongoing efforts toward a de-escalation of tensions in the [region],” a senior U.S. official said yesterday. Led by Brett McGurk, the White House National Security Council’s Middle East policy coordinator, and State Department counselor Derek Chollett, the delegation is expected to visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. Reuters reporting.

Tim Lenderking, U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen, will travel to Saudi Arabia and Oman today to talk with government officials about efforts to put an end to Yemen’s civil war, the State Department said in a statement: “discussions will focus on ensuring the regular and unimpeded delivery of commodities and humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen, promoting a lasting ceasefire, and transitioning the parties to a political process,” the statement read. Reuters reporting.

Blinken will meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts during the G7 meeting in the U.K. next week. Reuters reporting.

MYANMAR

A leader of the protest campaign against the Myanmar military junta, Wai Moe Naing, could face charges of murder and treason, as authorities seek to clamp down on opposition, state media reported. Reuters reporting.

Unidentified attackers fired rockets at two Myanmar air bases on Thursday; no casualties and only minor damage have been reported. Reuters reporting.

The Myanmar conflict is displacing a new generation on a remote river frontier, with villagers in Myanmar and Thailand fleeing from bullets and strikes. “About 100 villagers from Myanmar, most of them elderly, pregnant women or children, crossed to the Thai side on Wednesday to escape the air strikes, the Free Burma Rangers aid group said,” Reuters reporting.

RUSSIA

Russian has opened a new criminal case against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for allegedly setting up a non-profit organization that infringed citizens’ rights, his allies have confirmed. Reuters reporting.

Navalny made his first public appearance yesterday since holding a 24-day hunger strike, appearing virtually for a court appeal against a defamation conviction that has been rebuked as politically motivated. Andrew Roth report for the Guardian.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, will monitor leading figures of the anti-lockdown, coronavirus denier movement because they pose a risk to undermining “democratic order” and have links to the far right, the interior ministry said. Christopher F Schuetze reports for the New York Times.

During U.N.-sponsored talks on ending the conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, a Greek Cypriot delegation rejected proposals by a Turkish Cypriot delegation for a two-state solution for Cyprus. Reuters reporting.

France’s interior ministry yesterday revealed plans for new anti-terrorism legislation, which seeks to bolster controversial measures that took effect after the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015. The bill “would, if approved by Parliament, pave the way for increased use of computer algorithms that allow the automatic processing of data from phones and web addresses to detect potential terror threats. This use, patchy and experimental until now, would be enshrined in law, and intelligence services would be able to keep the data for research purposes for up to two months,” Roger Scohen report for the New York Times.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 32.23 million and now killed over 574,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 149.68 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.15 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

Russia and China are systematically sowing mistrust in Western Covid-19 vaccines, says an E.U. study released by the bloc’s disinformation unit, part of its European External Action Service foreign policy arm. Reuters reporting.

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)