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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Moscow regrets the absence of U.S. officials from international talks on Afghanistan which will be held in Moscow today with the Taliban. The U.S. has said that it would not be joining the talks due to technical and logical reasons, but hoped to do so in the future. Reuters reports.
Russia scrambled two fighter jets to escort a pair of U.S. strategic bombers over the Black Sea, Russia’s Defense Ministry has said. “After the foreign warplanes had been turned away from Russia’s state border, the Russian fighters safely returned to their home air base,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement accompanied by video footage of the U.S. aircraft in flight. The announcement coincides with a visit to Ukraine by the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who, during his visit, “said that Russia was an obstacle to peace in eastern Ukraine and called on Moscow to end destabilising activities in the Black Sea and along Ukraine’s borders,” Reuters reports.
The FBI has searched two homes linked to the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The searches, carried out simultaneously in New York’s Greenwich Village and Washington’s Embassy Row, are part of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Deripaska was a client of Paul Manafort, who served for several months as former President Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016 and was convicted in 2018 of financial fraud and other crimes, and has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. William K. Rashbaum and Kenneth P. Vogel report for the New York Times.
The raid appears to be the latest setback for Deripaska, who has sought to have his name removed from a U.S. sanctions list and has made no secret of his support for Putin. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Deripaska and his companies in response to Russia’s sweeping campaign in 2016 to meddle in the U.S. election and in response to various cyber-attacks. It said Deripaska had acted “on behalf of … a senior Russian government official” – code for Putin – and had claimed to represent the Kremlin in other countries. The Treasury at the time said that “Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering.” Luke Harding reports for the Guardian.
A spokesperson for the FBI said that the agency was conducting “law enforcement activity at the home” but would not elaborate. A spokesperson for Deripaska also said that both properties belong to Deripaska’s relatives. “The searches are being carried out on the basis of two court orders, connected to U.S. sanctions,” the spokesperson said. “The houses do not belong to Mr Deripask,” she added. Tom Winter, Michael Kosnar, and Laura Strickler report for NBC News.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has voted unanimously to recommend criminal contempt charges against former White House strategist Steve Bannon. The select committee’s vote sent the issue to the full House of Representatives, which is expected to vote tomorrow to approve the move and refer the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The confrontation will test claims of executive privilege and determine how much information the select committee is able to collect about the Jan. 6 attacks. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Analysis of what the Jan. 6 select committee’s referral of Bannon for criminal contempt charges means, and what may come next, is provided by Paul LeBlanc reporting for CNN.
“It is essential that we get Mr. Bannon’s factual and complete testimony in order to get a full accounting of the violence of January 6th and its causes,” Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the Chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, said. “Mr. Bannon will comply with our investigation or he will face the consequences,” Thompson said. “We cannot allow anyone to stand in the way of the select committee as we work to get to the facts. The stakes are too high,” he added. Hugo Lowell reports for the Guardian.
The Jan. 6 select committee’s push to prosecute Bannon is relying on a law that has not produced a conviction in decades and could take years to litigation, without ever producing new evidence about Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein consider the difficulties with the use of criminal contempt of Congress, which is “riddled with legal loopholes and ambiguities,” reporting for POLITICO.
The Jan. 6 select committee denied yesterday a last-minute request from Bannon to delay yesterday’s scheduled vote to refer Bannon to prosecution for criminal contempt charges. Bannon’s attorney asked the select committee for a weeklong delay in light of the lawsuit former President Trump filed on Monday which seeks to block, on the basis of executive privilege, the committee from accessing records from the National Archives. Thompson denied the request, calling the committee’s work “extremely important and urgent for the nation.” “Further delay in compliance by Mr. Bannon undermines the ability of the committee to timely complete its essential responsibilities,” Thompson said. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
A federal judge who has strongly criticized the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and has handed down prison time for some convicted in connection with the attack is set to hear Trump’s challenge to the Jan. 6 select committee’s subpoena of records relating to Jan. 6 from Trump’s time in the White House. Judge Tanya Chutkan was assigned to hear the lawsuit which lawyers for Trump filed on Monday. Devan Cole reports for CNN.
A U.S. Capitol Police Officer has pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Michael A. Riley is the first police officer on duty on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 to be charged with allegedly attempting to help an attacker. According to the indictment, Riley told a contact online to remove Facebook selfies and videos about being in the Capitol building that day. “Riley was not on duty inside the Capitol building during the attack, prosecutors say, but in the K-9 unit and responded to reports of an explosive device on Capitol Hill that day,” Veronica Stracqualursi and Hannah Rabinowitz report for CNN.
President Biden’s administration is to issue an appeal to South American countries to help halt a new wave of migration to the U.S., by controlling the flow of migrants northward, officials have said. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently visiting South American countries, having met with Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso yesterday, and as part of the effort, Blinken will meet with counterparts from Latin American countries in Bogotá, Colombia. Seventeen countries from the hemisphere will be represented virtually or in person at the meeting, including officials from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Mexico, Colombian officials have said. Blinken’s meetings hope to establish a shared responsibility for migration management. William Mauldin and Michelle Hackman report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Association’s (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, has said that other states could follow Australia’s example and seek to build nuclear-powered submarines, raising serious proliferation and legal concerns. Grossi has said that he has a special team looking at the safety and legal implications of the Aukus security pact between the U.S., U.K., and Australia, which includes the U.S. and U.K. assisting Australia in building a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Grossi said it “cannot be excluded” that other countries would use the Aukus precedent to pursue their own nuclear submarine plans. The Aukus plan would be the first time a non-nuclear weapons state has acquired nuclear-powered submarines and reflects a grey area in the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows fissile material to be removed from IAEA safeguards for such purposes. The procedures by which the IAEA would ensure that the fuel is not diverted to making nuclear weapons have yet to be worked out. Julian Borger reports for the Guardian.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has placed a hold on Biden’s pick to lead the State Department’s Middle East Bureau, escalating the lawmaker’s battle with Biden’s administration over diplomatic nominations. In an email Cruz’s team explained to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republican offices that Cruz was seeking to delay the panel’s approval of Barbara Leaf, a top Middle East National Security Council (NSC) official nominated to be the assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs. “According to the email, Leaf didn’t answer three of Cruz’s written questions to the senator’s satisfaction, and in one case Cruz’s team claims the NSC official lied,” Alexander Ward and Andrew Desiderio report for POLITICO.
U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Frank McKenzie met with the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Armed Forces Chief of Staff in Abu Dhabi yesterday. The statement from U.S. Central Command said that “the leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining the momentum of bilateral defense cooperation, bringing the conflict in Yemen to a peaceful conclusion, and keeping pressure on Daesh’s remnants in Iraq, Syria and other countries… McKenzie also expressed his appreciation for UAE’s willingness to temporarily host U.S. citizens, at-risk Afghans and other evacuees from Afghanistan.”
A U.S. magistrate set an arraignment date of Nov. 1 for Alex Saab, an envoy for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who has been extradited to the U.S.. Saab is a businessman who has been accused of money laundering on behalf of the Venezuelan government and is accused of taking part in a bribery scheme that allegedly allowed him to make $350 million off a low-income housing project in Venezuela. Saab was extradited to the U.S. from Cape Verde, where he was arrested in 2020. Brian Ellsworth and Alexandra Ulmer report for Reuters.
Former President Trump’s Defense Secretary, Mark T. Esper, quashed an idea to send 250,000 troops to the southern U.S. border, and Trump’s top national security aides also talked him out of launching military raids against drug cartels inside Mexico. Esper reportedly was “alarmed” and “enraged” by the “outrageous” idea to send more than half the active U.S. Army to the U.S.-Mexico border. Former policy advisor, Stephen Miller urged the Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan for the troops to seal the entire 2,000 mile border. The idea was never formally presented to Trump for approval, but was discussed in meetings at the White House during debates regarding options to address illegal immigration at the border. Around the same time, Trump pressed top aides to send forces into Mexico itself to hunt drug cartels. The aides suggested to Trump that such military raides could appear to most of the world as the U.S. committing an act of war against Mexico. David E. Sanger, Michael D. Sheer, and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
A U.S. Navy report has concluded that major failures within the military chain of command allowed a fire to destroy the USS Bonhomme Richard, which burned for four days in San Diego, California in July 2020. The fire injured 40 sailors and 23 civilians. “The new report identifies 36 sailors, including five admirals, as having contributed to the loss of the ship. It also identifies multiple cascading failures in the fire response. Arson charges have been filed against one sailor who allegedly started the blaze out of animosity towards commanders, but the new report finds that a lack of response allowed the fire to grow rapidly in size,” BBC News reports.
Lawmakers are concerned that President Biden has yet to name a successor to General John Hyten, the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is set to retire next month. Lawmakers worry that the Senate nomination agenda is already backlogged with Pentagon and State Department nominations. Senator Jim Inhofe said in a statement that “given the enormous threats we face worldwide, it is alarming that President Biden would risk the number-two military advisor position sitting empty.” Paul McLeary and Connor O’Brien report for POLITICO.
Thousands of Puerto Ricans marched in San Juan last week to protest electricity outages on the island. After Hurricane Maria crashed the island’s power system, a private consortium took over transmission and distribution in June. But the island experienced surging demand and rolling blackouts through August and September. Aging equipment, poor maintenance, corruption and mismanagement augment Puerto Rico’s electrical grid problems. Patricia Mazzei reports for the New York Times.
A federal grand jury has indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NB), alleging that Fortenberry concealed information and made false statements to authorities during an FBI investigation into illegal contributions to his reelection campaign that were made by Nigerian-born billionaire Gilbert Chagoury. Fortenberry is charged with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. “Just hours before, Fortenberry made a move rarely seen in Washington, preemptively warning his supporters he would be facing charges in the FBI campaign finance probe — and trying to raise money off of it,” Hailey Fuchus and Olivia Beavers report for POLITICO.
Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S.’s most senior transgender official, has made history again by becoming the first openly transgender four-star officer across any of the U.S.’s eight uniformed services. “Levine, the assistant secretary of health, was sworn in Tuesday as an admiral, the highest-ranking official of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, whose 6,000 uniformed officers are entrusted with protecting the nation’s public health. Levine’s appointment also made her the organization’s first female four-star officer,” Matt Lavietes reports for NBC News.
White House officials have weighed deploying the National Guard to help address the supply chain backlog. Sources said that as of now the plan was unlikely to proceed. If the idea progresses, the administration would probably deploy service members through the states rather than at the federal level. Logistical challenges also remain to utilize the National Guard to alleviate the supply chain problems. Jeff Stein reports for the Washington Post.
The family of Elijah McClain, an unarmed Black man who died after he was stopped by police while walking home from a Colorado convenience store in 2019, have reached a settlement with the city of Aurora. Financial details of the settlement will not be disclosed until the agreement is finalized and the family determines how to allocate it. “There’s no amount of money that could ever compensate Ms. McClain or Elijah’s family for their devastating loss,” said Matthew Cron, who represents McClain’s estate and his mother. Jennifer Calfas reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Iowa authorities are investigating multiple threats — including one of lynching — that Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn received soon after writing an op-ed criticizing former President Trump. In the piece, which was written ahead of Trump’s Oct. 9 rally in Iowa, Wilburn, the state party’s first Black chair, accused Iowa Republicans of putting their loyalty to Trump ahead of Iowans’ needs. “Immediately after publishing the op-ed, Wilburn, who is also a state representative, received three threatening messages — two left in his phone messages from a restricted number, and one left in his legislature email’s inbox,” Mariana Alfaro reports for the Washington Post.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that over 10,000 children have been killed or injured in the Yemen war since fighting started in March 2015. The number, which is “the equivalent of four children every day,” a UNICEF spokesperson said, is also only the deaths which have been reported. According to UNICEF, “over 11 million children in Yemen — or 4 out of every 5 children — need humanitarian assistance. More than 2 million children are out of school, with an additional 4 million at risk of dropping out. Further, over 1.7 million children are internally displaced because of the violence. About 15 million people, including 8.5 million children, do not have access to safe water sanitation or hygiene,” Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
Yemen’s humanitarian crisis continues to be “the world’s worst,” the UNICEF spokesperson said. It “represents a tragic convergence of four threats: (1) a violent and protracted conflict, (2) economic devastation, (3) shattered services for every support system – that is, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, protection and education, (4) and a critically under-funded U.N. response,” the spokesperson said. UN News Centre reports.
A group of human rights lawyers will file a legal complaint today in the U.K. accusing key figures in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of being involved in war crimes relating to the war in Yemen. The lawyers “plan to submit a dossier to British police and prosecutors alleging that about 20 members of the political and military elite of the two Gulf nations are guilty of crimes against humanity, and call for their immediate arrest should they enter the U.K.. The full list of those accused was not released by the group of lawyers, Guernica 37, but it is understood they include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his Emirati equivalent Mohammed bin Zayed,” Dan Sabbagh reports for the Guardian.
Two German former soldiers have been detained on terrorism-related charges for allegedly trying to form a mercenary group of up to 150 members to fight in Yemen, the German Federal Public Prosecutor has said. The suspects “had decided in early 2021 to form a paramilitary unit consisting of former German Army soldiers and police members, the prosecutor said in a statement,” Reuters reports.
NORTH KOREA AND SOUTH KOREA
North Korea has confirmed that it has successfully tested a “new type” of submarine-launched ballistic missile. The device has “lots of advanced control guidance technologies,” North Korean state media reported. Pictures released by state media showed a missile emerging from the sea, trailing a column of fire and smoke, and a surfacing submarine. Analysts said the images appeared to be one of the missiles Pyongyang put on show at a defense exhibition last week. Diplomats said that the U.N. security council would hold an emergency closed-door meeting on Wednesday on North Korea as the country pursues ever more improved weapons. Agence France-Presse reports.
Authorities in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin are hunting for a North Korean defector who escaped from prison Monday night. “Prison authorities in Jilin identified the prison breaker as 39-year-old Zhu Xianjian, a North Korean national who was sentenced to more than a decade behind bars in 2014 on charges including illegal border crossing and armed robbery,” Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the economic crisis in Afghanistan could fuel a refugee crisis impacting Afghanistan’s neighboring countries in Turkey and Europe. “The economy will contract by up to 30% this year – which could push millions into poverty and cause a humanitarian crisis, the fund warned. The IMF said Afghanistan’s neighbors would be further hit because they rely on its funds for trade,” BBC News reports.
The Taliban has praised suicide bombers who died during the war against the former Afghan government and its Western allies and has offered their families sums of cash and promises of land, the Taliban’s interior ministry has said in a statement. Reuters reports.
Hackers potentially linked to China are continuously targeting the telecommunications sector, a report by cybersecurity company CrowdStrike has found. “According to the report, a threat group labeled by CrowdStrike as ‘LightBasin’ has been ‘consistently targeting’ the global telecommunication sector since 2016 and has successfully compromised at least 13 telecommunications groups in the last two years alone…The report stressed that it did ‘not assert a nexus’ between the hacking group and China but that the developer of the tool likely ‘had knowledge of the Chinese language,’” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
The probability of war with China in the next year is “very low,” a top Taiwanese security official told a parliamentary defense committee meeting today. “But there are many things you still have to pay attention to, called contingent events,” National Security Bureau Director-General Chen Ming-tong added. The statement comes amid heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing. Sarah Wu reports for Reuters.
Thousands of farmers in Myanmar have fled to India after the military junta seized power in the February coup. Myanmar’s military has targeted areas along the border, firing rockets, burning down homes, and cutting off internet access and food supplies. Aid groups are concerned that other countries surrounding Myanmar, like Thailand, will push the immigrants back. Sui-Lee Wee reports for the New York Times.
The U.N. Country Team in Myanmar remains “deeply concerned over the humanitarian impact” of the country’s ongoing crises stemming largely from the military coup in February, a U.N. spokesperson has said. Updating journalists at a daily media briefing, the U.N. spokesperson said that “conflict, food insecurity, natural disasters and Covid-19” have left some three million women, children and men in urgent need of life-saving assistance and protection in Myanmar. UN News Centre reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A bomb attack on a military bus in central Damascus has killed 14 people, Syrian state media has reported. Two explosive devices attached to the vehicle blew up as it passed under Jisr al-Rais bridge during the morning rush hour, media reported. Soon after the blast, Syrian army shellfire reportedly killed at least 10 people in the opposition-held northwest of the country. No group has yet said it was behind the bombing, but suspicion will fall on Islamic State, which has attacked military vehicles in the east of the country this year. BBC News reports.
Tigrayan forces have said that the capital of the Tigray region, Mekelle, has been hit by the second airstrike this week. “Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s central committee, tweeted about the airstrike being carried out in the city around 10:20 local time… Residents have also confirmed the attack,” Hanna Temuari reports for BBC News.
An Ethiopian government spokesperson has said that a federal air strike today in Mekelle targeted buildings where rebellious Tigrayan forces were repairing armaments. The spokesperson told Reuters that he had no information on casualties. Reuters reporting.
The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Association’s (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, has warned that stop-gap measures to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities are no longer “intact.” Grossi said he hopes to meet with Iran’s foreign minister to discuss ways to resume the surveillance program. After Iran’s parliament voted to end snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities last February, Grossi helped broker a compromise with Tehran to keep cameras recording at key nuclear sites in the country. Grossi’s most recent statements about the status of the monitoring program came after Iran refused to grant surveillance access to Tesa Karaj, a “very important” facility that produces parts for centrifuges and whose data is essential to observe Iran’s nuclear activities. Katrina Manson reports for the Financial Times.
The judge leading Lebanon’s probe into last year’s massive port explosion has renewed summonses of two former ministers, including an ally of Hezbollah, for questioning. The decision came amid intense criticism from Hezbollah that included accusations by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that the judge politicized the probe and singled out certain officials. Sarah El Deeb reports for the Associated Press.
Iraqis have protested recent parliamentary elections and demand a recount due to “fraud.” Several hundred supporters of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, a pro-Iranian former paramilitary force, gathered on a Baghdad street leading to the entrance of the Green Zone which is where the U.S. embassy, other diplomatic missions and government offices are located. The protesters denounced U.N. officials responsible for monitoring the elections and helping to prevent voter fraud. Al Jazeera reports.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the U.S., Germany, and France, over their “irresponsible” call for the release of Turkish philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala. A statement from the embassies demanded an end to Kavala’s case which they said “cast[s] a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system.” Yesterday the Turkish Foreign Ministry told ambassadors that the statement was “unacceptable.” Ali Kucukgocmen reports for Reuters.
The coronavirus has infected close to 45.14 million and has now killed close to 728,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 241.60 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.91 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley, and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A panel of Brazilian senators has concluded in a draft report that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro intentionally allowed Covid-19 to kill hundreds of thousands in a failed attempt to achieve herd immunity. The report, published by Brazilian media, is still in draft form and is not due to be voted on by the commission until next week. However, it is believed that the panel will also recommend criminal charges against 69 other people, including three of Bolsonaro’s sons and numerous current and former government officials. The nearly 1,200-page report places blame on Bolsonaro’s policies for the deaths of more than 300,000 Brazilians, which amounts to half of the country’s Covid-19 death toll. The report is a product of a six-month investigation by a special Covid-19 legislative committee, the Brazilian Senate Pandemic Parliamentary Inquiry (CPI), that held more than 50 hearings. Jack Nicas reports for the New York Times.
The draft report paints a devastating portrait of the neglect, incompetence, and anti-scientific denialism that many believe has defined the Bolsonaro administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The draft report accuses Brazil’s far-right leader of a total of 11 crimes, including crimes against humanity, incitement to crime, and charlatanism, for his ‘obstinate’ promotion of ineffective remedies such as the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. But perhaps the most serious allegation is that Bolsonaro’s shunning of offers from vaccine manufacturers during the first year of Brazil’s epidemic amounted to murder,” Tom Phillips reports for the Guardian.
However, Brazilian senators investigating Bolsonaro’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic decided late yesterday to withdraw recommendations for charges of mass homicide and genocide against him. The allegations first appeared in the draft report of the CPI. However, late yesterday at the end of a meeting, “CPI President Sen. Omar Aziz said the allegations of genocide against Brazilian Indigenous communities were to be dropped from the text, due to a lack of consensus…CPI Vice President Sen. Randolfe Rodrigues said the recommendation for ‘mass murder’ charges would also be dropped and replaced with charges of ‘epidemic that resulted in death,’” Stefano Pozzebon and Isa Soares report for CNN.
The Justice Department must help protect public health officials who have been threatened with violence and harassment during the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, a group representing nearly 3,000 local health departments, has said. The group “wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday, requesting that a recent federal effort to protect school board members, teachers and other school employees be expanded to include local health officials as well,” Danielle Ivory and Mike Baker report for the New York Times.
The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee wants Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to suspend the Pentagon’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) referred to a “lack of clarity and consistency” among the military services in implementing the order, in a letter to Austin on Monday. Most service members have received their vaccines, but tens of thousands have yet to comply and with deadlines looming, national security could be at risk, Inhofe wrote. Ellen Mitchell 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.