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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.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Joined with lawyers from the Justice Department, lawyers for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack have argued in court that President Biden — not former President Trump — has the authority to decide which records are shared with the committee. In contrast, Trump’s attorneys have argued that a former president could still successfully invoke executive privilege, which would allow Trump to claim legal protections that shield certain presidential communications from Congress. The hearing was the first in Trump’s lawsuit against the Jan. 6 committee and the National Archives. Claudia Grisales reports for NPR.
U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, the federal judge hearing Trump’s lawsuit, appeared ready to side with the select committee and the Biden administration yesterday. During the hearing, Chutkan described some of the requests from the select committee as “unbelievably broad” and that she may curb them. However, Chutkan indicated the power to assert executive privilege to withhold records from Congress ultimately rests with Biden, as the current president. Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
Former Department of Justice (DOJ) official Jeffery Clark is expected to appear today before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, a congressional aide has said. Last week the select committee delayed obtaining testimony from Clark because he had retained a new lawyer. Clark, the former acting head of the DOJ’s civil division, was a proponent of Trump’s false election fraud claims. The Guardian reports.
Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell have testified under oath that they had done little to verify debunked claims of fraud in the 2020 election before spreading them on the national stage, according to a tape of their depositions. The video, obtained by CNN, “details responses from the Trump allies as a lawyer representing former Dominion Voting Systems executive Eric Coomer in his defamation case against them peppers them with questions about their allegations,” Devan Cole and Tierney Sneed report for CNN.
Congressional investigators looking into the Jan. 6 attack have conducted two interviews with a rioter who has shared knowledge about pre-Jan. 6 interactions between key state-level Republican officials and Trump allies. The individual also shared details about his motivation for attending the Jan. 6 rally and, ultimately, attacking the Capitol. The individual’s explanation for marching on the Capitol suggest that the individual and others were responding to Trump’s directions. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chair of the Jan. 6 select committee has told reporters that he has signed about 20 subpoenas and that they are going out “soon,” possibly by today. “Thompson would not confirm if former Trump lawyer John Eastman, who CNN has reported the committee plans to subpoena, is a part of that group, but said of the next batch of the subpoenas: ‘some of the people have been written about. Some of the people haven’t been written about.’ Asked if there are lawmakers the committee is planning to subpoena, the Mississippi Democrat said: ‘not yet,’” Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles report for CNN.
A Texas real estate agent who bragged that as a blonde white woman she would not be going to jail for joining in the Jan. 6 attack, has been sentenced to two months of incarceration. Jenna Ryan pleaded guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol in August. “For better or worse, you’ve become one of the faces of January 6,” U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper of D.C. told Ryan, 50. Rachel Weiner reports for the Washington Post.
The Jan. 6 select committee has interviewed more than 150 people, according to the Vice Chair of the committee Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). The committee has had “interviews with a whole range of people connected to the events, connected to understanding what happens, so that just gives you a sense. It is a range of engagements — some formal interviews, some depositions … There really is a huge amount of work underway that is leading to real progress for us,” Cheney told POLITICO. Olivia Beavers and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Igor Danchenko, who was a primary source of information for a 2016 dossier of allegations against former President Trump, compiled by Christopher Steele, (the Steele dossier), has been arrested on charges that he repeatedly lied to the FBI as the agency investigated whether the Trump 2016 campaign had ties with Russia. Among other things, “Danchenko allegedly lied to agents when he said he had never communicated about the dossier allegations with a U.S.-based public relations executive ‘who was a long-time participant in Democratic Party politics.’ In truth, that executive was ‘a contributor of information’ to the dossier, the indictment says.” Devlin Barrett reports for the Washington Post.
Danchenko has been charged with five counts of making false statements to FBI officials about the sources of the information he helped compile for Steele. The charges against Danchenko stem from the investigation by special counsel John Durham into decisions made by intelligence officers and law enforcement officials during the FBI probe into Trump. As part of a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump or any of his associates had links to Russia, Danchenko sat for numerous interviews with FBI officials in 2017 as they tried to corroborate allegations made in the Steele dossier. “The 39-page indictment also states that several key pieces of information in the dossier — purportedly a private intelligence product compiled by a retired British MI6 agent with deep ties to Eastern Europe — weren’t collected from Russia but were sourced to chatter and gossip circulating in American political circles,” Byron Tau and Alan Cullison report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. Navy has sacked three top crew members aboard the nuclear submarine, USS Connecticut, that crashed into an underwater mountain (a “seamount”) when operating in the South China Sea last month. Navy officials have said that the crew members “could have prevented” the collision, which caused minor injuries for fifteen sailors and forced the submarine to surface and sail to the U.S. territory of Guam to be checked for damage. BBC News reports.
A white juror in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse was dismissed Thursday after making a racist joke about the shooting of Jacob Blake as he was escorted to his car. Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder agreed with prosecutors that it was “clear that the appearance of bias is present, and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case.” Schroeder concluded, “the best thing under the circumstances is I’m going to dismiss you from the jury, sir.” Timothy Bella and Mark Berman report for the Washington Post.
The Manhattan district attorney has convened a second grand jury to hear evidence about the Trump organization’s financial practices, such as how the company valued its assets. “It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes,” Michael Cohen, a longtime lawyer for Trump, said in his testimony to Congress. The grand jury will potentially consider criminal charges. Shayna Jacobs, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell report for the Washington Post.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing Texas over aspects of its new voting law. The DOJ’s lawsuit states that the state legislation, passed in September, “violates federal voting-rights law by limiting how helpers can assist certain voters, such as people with disabilities, and by requiring rejection of mail ballots for what it called ‘immaterial errors or omissions.’ Such measures will disenfranchise Texas voters, including those with limited English proficiency, older people, those with disabilities, deployed members of the military and Americans living outside the U.S., the lawsuit says,” Sadie Gurman and Alexa Corse report for the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden is “perfectly comfortable” with his administration paying immigrant families to resolve lawsuits alleging they suffered trauma from being separated after illegally crossing the Mexico border, a White House spokesperson has said. The comments were made to clarify Biden’s comment a day earlier that such payouts weren’t going to happen. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that officials were in talks to pay around $450,000 a person to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of the families. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden earlier yesterday had said that his administration will not financially compensate families who were separated at the border, rejecting reports about the hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments as “garbage.” Biden was responding to a question from a Fox News reporter about the payments. “$450,000 per person? Is that what you’re saying? That’s not going to happen,” Biden said. Soon after Biden’s comments, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union said that the plan is in the works, and questioned whether Biden has been briefed about it. Mariana Alfaro reports for the Washington Post.
The State Department has announced a $10 million reward for anyone who can provide information on leaders of DarkSide, the cyber criminal group that launched a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Robert Santos, a Latino, has become the first person of color confirmed as head of the Census Bureau, following the Senate vote yesterday. Santos, a statistician, was nominated by Biden in April. Santos’s confirmation comes amid mounting concerns about an undercount of minorities in the 2020 Census. Tara Bahrampour reports for the Washington Post.
President Biden’s administration has approved a potential $650 million sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. This would be Biden’s first major arms sale to Saudi Arabia. During his campaign, Biden promised he would make Saudi Arabia a “pariah,” however, he has since been criticized for failing to hold the country accountable for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and for other human rights abuses. The State Department issued a statement saying “this proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security of the U.S. by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political and economic progress in the Middle East.” Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
The FBI has released newly declassified documents that explore the scope of its investigation into possible Saudi government ties to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. “The documents show that the FBI extensively probed the level of support given to three Saudi nationals — including from a Saudi Embassy official in Washington, D.C., — once they landed in the U.S., including ‘procuring living quarters and assistance with assimilating’ in the country. The investigation also looked into whether the Saudi Embassy employee used his position to help ‘oversee and direct the facilitation of the hijackers,’ according to the recently released documents, which show the FBI sought to discern whether or not Saudi Arabian officials had advance knowledge of the attacks,” Sarakshi Rai reports for The Hill.
As Biden’s team continues to plan for the Dec. 9-10 virtual Summit for Democracy, civil society organizations are already expressing frustrations over their marginalized role in the summit. It is also unclear how the somewhat vague initiatives being launched at the summit will translate into tangible commitments for countries attending the summit. “‘The symbolism of the gathering is important, but the actual change on the ground that the summit would generate remains to be seen,’ said Steven Feldstein, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ‘There are a lot of big questions on the table that the initial gathering won’t address, like what to do about weaker democracies that are showing regression.’” Nahal Toosi reports for POLITICO.
Some countries, such as Turkey and Hungary, have not been invited to the Summit for Democracy because their leaders have been undermining their democratic systems for years, meanwhile Taiwan is among the invitees, according to the list obtained by POLITICO. Nahal Toosi reports for POLITICO.
Republican Senators have introduced a bill seeking to increase U.S. military aid to Taiwan, amid growing tensions between the island and China. The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), is the lead sponsor of the bill. The bill, titled the Taiwan Deterrence Act, “looks to give $2 billion a year in military grants and loans to Taiwan until 2032 — as long as the country meets certain conditions. Those conditions include Taiwan matching the influx of aid with its own spending and agreeing to engage with the U.S. in long-term planning about how to increase the island’s defense capabilities,” Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Republicans are projected to win at least 50 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, consolidating the Republican party’s sweep of Virginia’s top seats of public office. Beyond signalling a political shift in the state, after years of Democratic control, the Republican gains in Virginia are also being seen as an “ominous warning” to Democrats as the electorate reflects on the first year of President Biden’s administration and both parties prepare for 2022 midterm elections. Paul LeBlanc reports for CNN.
In New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli is not conceding a day after The Associated Press called the race for incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy. Ciattarelli said the election will be “legal and fair” and declared that “no one should be declaring victory or conceding the election until every legal vote is counted.” Murphy currently leads by roughly 44,000 votes. Mike Catalini reports for the AP.
Sudan’s army General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has ordered the release of four civilian ministers who had been detained since the military coup on Oct. 25. The move comes amidst ongoing U.N. efforts to negotiate a way out of the country’s current political crisis. The U.N. special envoy for Sudan announced that talks had produced an outline for a potential power-sharing agreement, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s reinstatement. He reiterated, however, that an agreement needed to be reached soon. Al Jazeera reports.
Al-Burhan has agreed with the U.S. on the need to speed up the formation of a new government, according to a statement from al-Burhan’s office released after the general spoke on the phone yesterday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Blinken in the call urged al-Burhan to immediately release all political figures detained since the coup and “return to a dialogue that returns Prime Minister Hamdok to office and restores civilian-led governance in Sudan”. Al Jazeera reports.
Blinken also spoke to Hamdok yesterday and “underscored the strong support of the United States for the Sudanese people who seek democracy and called for an immediate restoration of the civilian-led transition to democracy,” according to a statement from State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN AFRICA
Nine anti-government factions in Ethiopia are to form an alliance against the Ethiopian government today. The new alliance, called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces, includes the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government in the Tigray region for a year. “Two of the groups, the Oromo Liberation Army and the Agaw Democratic Movement, confirmed the announcement was genuine. Several of the groups have armed fighters although it was not clear whether they all do,” Reuters reports.
The new United Front of Ethiopian Federalist Forces seeks to “establish a transitional arrangement in Ethiopia” so that Ethiopia’s prime minister can go as soon as possible, organizer Yohanees Abraha, who is with the TPLF, has said. “The next step will be, of course, to start meeting and communicating with countries, diplomats and international actors in Ethiopia and abroad,” Abraha told The Associated Press. “He said the new alliance is both political and military. It has had no communication with Ethiopia’s government, he added,” Cara Anna reports for AP.
Suspected Islamic extremists ambushed a self-defense brigade in western Niger, killing 69 people, earlier this week Niger’s Interior Ministry has said. “The town’s mayor was among those killed in the Tuesday attack and 15 other members of the village defense group were wounded in the ambush, the statement said. The local self-defense groups have been helping Niger’s military to fight extremists who have stepped up attacks on civilians this year blamed on Islamic State-linked militants,” Dalatou Mamane reports for AP.
Niger has declared two days of national mourning following Tuesday’s attack, for which no group has yet claimed responsibility. “The assailants fled across the border into Mali, reportedly taking their own dead away with them,” BBC News reports.
Nigerian police have said that six people kidnapped from the University of Abuja earlier this week have been freed. “Details of how they were released have not been disclosed to the public but the school management wrote on its Facebook page that the victims were freed without any payment of ransom,” BBC News reports.
Most of the world’s developing countries have backed a demand at the COP26 climate summit for wealthy nations to channel at least $1.3 trillion in climate finance to them annually starting in 2030. “African nations and a group called the Like-Minded Developing Countries, which includes China, India and Indonesia, said in a document they submitted to the United Nations at the summit that half the money should go toward funding renewable energy in the developing world and half toward protecting these countries from the effects of global warming,” Matthew Dalton reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. and 20 other countries announced yesterday that starting next year they would stop spending tax dollars to support international fossil fuel projects. The decision will further restrict investments in drilling, power plants and other projects by international development banks and other publicly funded institutions, and the group of countries said that it would divert $18 billion a year toward clean energy. Michael Birnbaum, Steven Mufson and Sarah Kaplan report for the Washington Post.
The Taliban’s Supreme Leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, has issued a warning to members of the group that “there may be ‘unknown’ entities among their ranks who are ‘working against the will of the government.’” Taliban leadership has issued a series of similar warnings since it assumed control of Afghanistan. The group has also endured a series of deadly attacks by the Islamic State-affiliate, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, including the deadly attack on Tuesday at a military hospital in Kabul. Ali M Latifi reports for Al Jazeera.
UNICEF is setting up a system to make direct payments to Afghan teachers. The direct payment system will eliminate the problem of channeling funds through the Taliban-led administration, which the international community has placed a freeze on funding. “The best way to support the education of girls in Afghanistan is to continue supporting their schools and teachers. UNICEF is calling upon donors not to let Afghanistan’s children down,” Jeannette Vogelaar, UNICEF Afghanistan’s Chief of Education, has said. Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam reports for Reuters.
All 24 female U.S. senators have signed a bipartisan letter to President Biden urging him to develop a plan to preserve the basic human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. The letter, which was led by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and stated that “women and girls are now suffering the predations of a Taliban regime with a track record of brutalizing, isolating, and denying them life and liberty,” highlighting violence such as “beatings and killings” that women in Afghanistan have faced in addition to restrictions like being unable to leave their homes without a “male guardian.” Monique Belas reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least 200 fighters were killed in clashes between Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels in and around the strategic central province of Marib over the last two days, security officials have said. “Most of the casualties belonged to the Houthi forces, who have recently wrestled from their rivals most of Marib’s 14 districts, according to the officials,” Ahmed Al-Haj reports for AP.
Cuts to the budget of the U.N.’s relief agency for Palestinians – including a halving of the U.K. grant – means the agency is close to collapse, the head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, has said. “Lazzarini, the commissioner general of U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which serves Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza but also in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, said the agency was in an existential crisis due to a $100m shortfall this year, but also because of a method of long-term funding that has proved unsustainable,” Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
Canada has announced that all allegations of sexual misconduct within the country’s armed forces will now be investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities, rather than within the military. The decision is the first serious response from the country’s government to a series of sexual-misconduct allegations in the armed forces, which has reinforced skepticism among soldiers and the public about the military’s ability to police itself. Paul Vieira reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Dutch Supreme Court has upheld part of a Russian appeal against a $50 billion arbitration award to former shareholders of bankrupted oil giant Yukos and quashed a lower court’s decision to uphold the award. The decision follows years of legal battles between Russia and former Yukos shareholders after an arbitration tribunal in 2014 found Moscow had violated its international obligations by taking actions between 2003 and 2007 designed to bankrupt Yukos, formerly Russia’s largest privately owned oil company, and appropriate its assets. The highest Dutch court ruled that a lower appeal court in The Hague wrongly dismissed, on procedural grounds, Russia’s claim that “shareholders committed fraud in the arbitral proceedings.” “The Supreme Court referred the case to the Amsterdam Court of Appeal for judges there to rule on the matter. The judgment rejected other grounds of appeal put forward by Russia,” Mike Corder reports for AP.
An independent presidential candidate in Honduras has been arrested, along with his wife and mother-in-law, just weeks before Honduras holds presidential elections. Santos Rodríguez Orellana, a former army captain, was one of the first to publicly accuse President Juan Orlando Hernández’s brother of ties to drug trafficking. Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández was later convicted of drug trafficking charges in the United States and sentenced to life in prison. Orellana, who received a dishonorable discharge from the army in 2016 after denouncing Hernández, was arrested yesterday on money laundering charges. Marlon GonzÁlez reports for AP.
Greece has been accused of the “biggest pushback in years” of a cargo ship carrying 382 migrants. The 382 asylum seekers from the ship were taken to the Greek island of Kos, however criticism has mounted over their “unnecessarily prolonged” ordeal at sea. The ship had been heading for Italy when it ran into engine trouble off Crete and issued a mayday call on Oct. 28. However, Greek officials continued to insist that they had not found the boat and then began to tow it away from Crete. “The nearest port was just a few miles away. Instead, they were kept on the vessel for four days, an unnecessarily prolonged period without access to basic services,” Dr Apostolos Veizis, who heads the humanitarian aid organisation Intersos Hellas has said. Helena Smith reports for the Guardian.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi has said that Japan will step up military cooperation with Germany in the Indo-Pacific region as he welcomed a port call by the first German warship to visit Japan in about 20 years. “The frigate Bayern is visiting Tokyo after two days of joint exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Samidare in the Pacific Ocean amid increasingly assertive maritime activities by China in the region. The ship’s visit is ‘an important turning point’ in pursuing a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ and securing one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, Kishi said after inspecting the frigate with German officials,” Mari Yamaguchi reports for AP.
The coronavirus has infected over 46.33 million people and has now killed over 751,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 248.75 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.03 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A Chinese citizen journalist who has been jailed for her coverage of China’s initial response to Covid-19 in Wuhan is close to death after going on a hunger strike, her family have said, sparking fresh calls for her release. “Zhang Zhan, 38, a former lawyer, travelled to Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the chaos at the pandemic’s centre, questioning authorities’ handling of the outbreak in her smartphone videos. She was detained in May 2020 and sentenced in December to four years in jail for ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ – a charge routinely used to suppress dissent. She is now severely underweight and ‘may not live for much longer,’ her brother Zhang Ju wrote last week on a Twitter account verified by people close to the matter,” Agence France-Presse reports.
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.