Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
District Judge Tanya Chutkan has issued a 39-page opinion rejecting former President Trump’s request to keep the Jan. 6 records from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Chutkan held that Congress’s oversight powers prevail over any residual secrecy Trump has as the former president, especially since President Biden has said that the committee should have the files. Chutkan wrote, “presidents are not kings, and the plaintiff is not president.” Trump could still assert that the records were privileged, but Biden does not have to honor that assertion because the sitting president is in a better position to protect executive branch interests. Trump immediately expressed his intention to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
“The court holds that the public interest lies in permitting – not enjoining – the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to January 6,” Chutkan wrote. Hugo Lowell reports for the Guardian.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has issued 10 further subpoenas to former Trump administration officials, including former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and senior adviser Stephen Miller. The committee is seeking depositions and records from the former Trump aides, with deadlines later this month and next month. “We need to know precisely what role the former president and his aides played in efforts to stop the counting of the electoral votes and if they were in touch with anyone outside the White House attempting to overturn the outcome of the election,” Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee’s chair, has said. Lindsay Wise reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The latest round of individuals subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee also include John McEntee, the former White House personnel director; Ben Williamson, a former deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Nicholas Luna, Trump’s personal assistant; and Molly Michael, the Oval Office operations coordinator to Trump. Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey report for the Washington Post.
The latest subpoenas shed further light on how the Jan. 6 select committee is seeking to understand how Trump and his loyalists planned to spread election fraud claims and block Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Scott Wong and Rebecca Beitsch report for The Hill.
The vast majority of the suspects charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack are not members of far-right groups or premeditated conspiracies, according to court records analyzed by the Washington Post. The court records show that many of the roughly 650 people federally charged in the attack “were an array of everyday Americans that included community leaders, small-business owners, teachers and yoga instructors. About 573 have no known affiliation with an extremist group,” Rachel Weiner, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman and Sahana Jayaraman report for the Washington Post.
The Department of Justice under Trump weighed the possibility of both holding a briefing with Congress on Jan. 5 and releasing a public statement about potential “unrest” the next day but ultimately scrapped their plans, according to heavily redacted documents obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A new report from the Office of Special Counsel has found that 13 senior administration officials under former President Trump violated the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that seeks to keep government functions nonpartisan. The Office of Special Counsel’s report accuses the officials of violating the Hatch Act by mixing governing and campaigning responsibilities leading up to the 2020 election. The Special Counsel said that the conduct was “willful disregard for the law” and pointed to abuses leading up to just days before the election. The report suggested that Trump’s refusal to comply with the law “laid the foundation for the violations.” Among those named as violators were former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former acting homeland security chief Chad Wolf. Lisa Rein reports for the Washington Post.
The D.C. Superior Court has allowed the D.C. Attorney General to proceed with a lawsuit against Trump’s inaugural committee and private business. The lawsuit alleges that the Trump International Hotel received $1 million by charging the Inaugural Committee inflated prices. The judge threw out one claim based on wasted money, but allowed a second claim that the nonprofit committee misused assets for the Trump family’s private gain to proceed. Myah Ward reports for POLITICO.
Republican Congressman Rep. Paul Gosar has posted an anime video showing him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Gosar captioned the link “any anime fans out there?” The video depicts a cartoon Gosar killing a giant bearing Ocasio-Cortez’s face with a sword. Gosar said in a statement that the video “symbolizes the battle for the soul of America when Congress takes up the President’s economic package.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the House Ethics Committee to investigate. Donie O’Sullivan reports for CNN.
China has criticized the use of a U.S. Navy aircraft to fly U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan for a routine trip this week, describing the visit as “sneaky.” “An unannounced visit by U.S. lawmakers has become the latest focus of Beijing’s ire, after Taiwanese aircraft enthusiasts on Tuesday evening spotted a Boeing C-40A plane registered to the United States military that took off from Clark Air Base in the Philippines and landed at Taipei’s Songshan Airport. Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby on Tuesday told reporters that it was a congressional, not Pentagon, delegation and added that such visits to Taiwan are ‘fairly routine’ and often make use of military aircraft.” A Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesperson responded saying that, “the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will stay on high alert at all times and take all necessary measures to resolutely smash any interference by external forces and ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist plots.” Christian Shepherd reports for the Washington Post.
China’s Eastern Theater Command yesterday night launched combat readiness drills near the Taiwan Strait, as a U.S. congressional delegation arrived in Taiwan, and Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense has reported that six Chinese warplanes have flown into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Chinese Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement that the drills were to “test and improve the combat effectiveness of the troops of multiple services and arms in joint operations.” Jordan Willaims reports for The Hill.
A U.S. judge is putting a lawsuit against Khalifa Hifter, a former Libyan warlord, on hold until after Libya’s election in which Hifter is expected to run for president. Hifter has been battling the United Nations-backed Libyan government for control of Libya for years, and multiple lawsuits in the Eastern District of Virginia accuse him of committing torture and war crimes during that conflict. However, in a ruling U.S. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said she was concerned that “this litigation is being used to influence Libya’s fragile political situation” and paused the case until after elections currently scheduled for Dec. 24. Rachel Weiner reports for the Washington Post.
President Biden’s administration is looking to improve security, climate and economic cooperation with Cairo, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken kicking off the first set of strategic dialogue talks with Egypt since 2015. Blinken started the talks by listing a series of hot spots in the Middle East and Horn of Africa where Washington is working with Cairo, stating that “one reason the relationship is strong is because we’re not merely maintaining it, but consistently expanding the areas where we cooperate,” Blinken said. William Mauldin and Jared Malsin report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. government has pledged to strengthen Haiti’s National Police as Haiti struggles with a spike in gang-related violence and severe fuel shortages that have deepened its looming economic crisis. “Todd Robinson, U.S. Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said the U.S. has provided Haiti’s police department with 19 of 60 police vehicles promised and will soon hand out a couple hundred sets of protective gear. He said the U.S. also will work with police to fight gangs and implement community development and violence prevention programs,” Evens Sanon reports for AP.
U.S. journalist Danny Fenster, who has been detained in Myanmar for more than five months, faces new criminal charges that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. Fester has been denied bail and has been held in the Insein Prison in Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon since his arrest in May. Yesterday, a Yangon courthouse filed sedition and terrorism charges against Fenster — the most serious laid against the journalist so far, his lawyer Than Zaw Aung told CNN. Helen Regan and Cape Diamond report for CNN.
A former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia for drunk driving has declared a hunger strike to protest his treatment in prison. Trevor Reed was convicted in 2020 and says conditions in prison are harsh and that he is being denied the right to communicate with his family and to use a phone. A statement from the family said he was being held in a small room with a hole in the floor and was not allowed to receive books, letters, and commissary items. The local branch of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service has denied that Reed is on a hunger strike and has claimed that he is still eating. Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.
The former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating has denounced the U.S., U.K. and Australian pact to help Australia build nuclear-powered submarines. Keating described the AUKUS security pact as “like throwing a handful of toothpicks at the mountain,” declaring Australia should avoid being drawn into a war with China. Daniel Hurst reports for the Guardian.
POLAND AND BELARUS
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “masterminding” the migrant crisis on Belarus’s border with the E.U. At an extraordinary session of parliament on Tuesday evening, Morawiecki, squarely pointed the blame for the crisis at Moscow and Putin, calling the Russian leader an “enabler” of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. “The remarks are the most direct accusations against Russia yet in a crisis where the Kremlin has not played an overt role,” Andrew Roth reports for the Guardian.
Russia is blaming the E.U. for the migrant crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland, and has sent bombers to overfly Belarus. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that western countries including E.U. member states, and NATO, are the root cause of the migrant crisis. “It is apparent that a humanitarian catastrophe is looming against the background of Europeans’ reluctance to demonstrate commitment to their European values,” a Kremlin spokesperson told a briefing. Moscow sent a further signal of support for Belarus by dispatching two strategic bomber planes to patrol Belarusian airspace. “The Tu-22M3 bombers helped test Belarus’s joint air defence system, RIA news agency quoted the defense ministry as saying in a statement that did not refer to the migrant crisis but served to underline the rise in tensions on NATO’s eastern frontier,” Reuters reports.
Poland is facing fresh attempts from migrants to breach its border with Belarus and now has 15,000 troops stationed at the border to repel them, Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak has said. At least 2,000 migrants have become stranded at the border, at the center of an escalating international row. Poland’s Defense Ministry has tweeted a video, alleging that a Belarusian soldier last night fired a shot to intimidate the migrants camped near the razor-wire fence. “It wasn’t a calm night. Indeed, there were many attempts to breach the Polish border,” Blaszczak told Polish radio. BBC News reports.
An explanation of the key facts from the Poland-Belarus border crisis is provided by Ellen Francis and Robyn Dixon reporting for the Washington Post.
U.N. agencies are calling for an “immediate de-escalation,” at the Poland-Belarus border. Alarmed by the latest reports of the rising tension at the border, with footage showing migrants attempting to dodge teargas and make their way through razor wire, the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration have issued a joint statement calling on states to ensure “the safety and human rights of migrants and refugees.” UN News Centre reports.
The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus yesterday, “sending the clearest signal yet that the Arab world is willing to re-engage with strongman Bashar Assad,” Albert Aji and Bassem Mroue report for AP.
The State Department has expressed concern over a meeting between the UAE’s foreign minister and Syria’s president. A spokesperson for the State Department warned states to consider the “atrocities” perpetrated by Assad. The State Department reiterated President Biden’s administration’s position that it “will not express any support for efforts to normalize or to rehabilitate Bashar al-Assad who is a brutal dictator.” Reuters reports.
Iraqi officials are struggling to contain Iran-backed militias, with Sunday’s drone attack on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s residence highlighting the enduring threat the paramilitary groups pose. U.S. officials have said an unspecified Iran-backed Iraqi militia was likely behind the attack, although the militias have denied responsibility. Iran also has disavowed the attack and sent a top general to Baghdad to ease tensions. Mediation efforts are progressing as “several militia groups agreed to condemn Sunday’s strike and cooperate with government investigators after meeting with Iraq’s president and other officials, senior Iraqi officials have said,” Jared Malsin, Ghassan Adnan and Benoit Faucon report for the Wall Street Journal.
Top Israeli defense officials have said that Israel is preparing for the possibility of an armed conflict with Iran and its proxies. Israeli army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi said yesterday that the Israeli military was “speeding up the operational plans and readiness for dealing with Iran and the nuclear military threat.” Addressing lawmakers at a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, Kohavi said the military “continued to act against our enemies in covert operations and missions around the Middle East” during the past year. AP reports.
U.S. trained Afghan pilots and other personnel have taken a U.S. brokered flight from Tajikistan to the UAE. The pilots had fled to Tajikistan with their aircrafts during the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. This was the last major group of U.S. trained pilots whose status was still in limbo following the evacuation. The Pentagon has estimated that there were approximately 191 evacuees. Phil Stewart for Reuters reports.
Afghanistan’s ex-Finance minister Khalid Payenda has blamed the Afghan government’s fall on corrupt officials who invented “ghost soldiers” and took payments from the Taliban. “Payenda told the BBC that most of the 300,000 troops and police on the government’s books did not exist. He said phantom personnel were added to official lists so that generals could pocket their wages… The former minister said the numbers may have been inflated by more than six times, and included ‘desertions [and] martyrs who were never accounted for because some of the commanders would keep their bank cards’ and withdraw their salaries, he alleged,” BBC News reports.
India hosted senior security officials today from Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries to discuss the ramifications of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in talks that were boycotted by Pakistan and China. “A joint statement released after the meeting said the eight participating nations also discussed threats arising from terrorism, radicalization and drug trafficking as well as the need for humanitarian assistance. No details were provided,” Sheikh Saaliq reports for AP.
A draft of the COP26 negotiation outcome urges countries to increase, by the end of next year, their short-term commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The call reflects the growing recognition of the gap between current pledges and limiting global hearing in accordance with the 2015 Paris agreement. The draft text, released by COP president Alok Sharma, also asks countries to agree to an annual high-level ministerial round table focused on raising ambitions further starting next November. However the draft text refers to the Paris temperature goal, which could limit temperature rises to 2C, rather than the more ambitious goal of 1.5C that many countries and campaigners were hoping for. Adam Morton and Fiona Harvey report for the Guardian.
Despite the COP26 pledges, the world is on track to warm about 2.5C, eclipsing the world’s shared climate goal by a full degree, and without immediate climate action “net zero” targets are unlikely to succeed, preliminary analysis by U.N. researchers has found. In the analysis released yesterday, “researchers found a massive gap between countries’ long-term promises to zero out carbon emissions and the official, short-term plans known as ‘nationally determined contributions,’ or NDCs. What countries are planning to do between now and 2030 makes many net zero pledges impossible, the researchers say. And despite a flurry of new commitments to zero out emissions, the projected level of warming by the end of the century is only about 0.1 degrees lower than before COP26 started,” Sarah Kaplan and Michael Birnbaum report for the Washington Post.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least 16 U.N. local employees and dependents have been detained in Ethiopia’s capital, the U.N. has said. An Ethiopian government spokesperson has asserted that the U.N. staffers were held for their “participation in terror” under a state of emergency as the country’s year-long war escalates. All the detained staffers are Tigrayan, a humanitarian worker told The Associated Press. “U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the U.N. was given no reason for the detentions, but Tigrayans, including lawyers, have reported widespread detentions in Addis Ababa since the state of emergency was declared, saying people are being picked up on the basis of their ethnicity alone,” Cara Anna reports for AP.
Ethiopian authorities have detained more than 70 drivers working with the U.N., in addition to the 16 U.N. staff and dependents, according to an internal U.N. email. The ethnicity of the drivers was not clear. “We confirm that 72 outsourced drivers contracted by WFP (World Food Program) have been detained in Semera,” a U.N. spokesperson told Reuters, referring to the capital city of the northeastern region of Afar. “We are liaising with the government of Ethiopia to understand the reasons behind their detention,” the spokesperson added. Reuters reports.
Mexican authorities have made their first arrest in the global spy scandal surrounding Israeli security firm NSO Group’s Pegasus malware. The authorities have detained a technician who worked for a private firm on allegations he was involved in illegally tapping the phone of a broadcast journalist. The man was detained on Nov. 1 and a Mexico City judge ordered him to be imprisoned while the investigation continues, according to a statement from the federal Justice Ministry. “Local media identified him as Juan Carlos García, a former employee of Proyectos y Diseños VME, part of the KBH business group. Authorities did not identify the journalist who was surveilled. But Carmen Aristegui, a well-known investigative reporter, disclosed Tuesday that the case involved the tapping of her phone in 2015 and 2016,” Mary Beth Sheridan reports for the Washington Post.
Hong Kong prosecutors cited comments made by former U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab in their ruling to deny bail for the head of the Hong Kong Apple Daily newspaper. Cheung Kim-hung, the former chief executive of Apple Daily’s parent company Next Digital Media, was arrested in June for “national security” offences. The ruling pointed to comments Raab made after the arrest, as well as a U.S. State Department statement and Cheung’s receipt of a U.S. congressional medal, as evidence of his “close association” with foreign political groups. Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.
The first NASA mission to put humans on the Moon’s surface since 1972 has been pushed back to 2025 due in part to a funding shortfall and a lawsuit over the landing vehicle. Paul Rincon reports for BBC News.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson blamed a series of events for the delay in the mission, while citing competition with China as the primary driver for putting Americans back on the moon. “Having landed a rover on Mars and a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the moon, China has big ambitions in space, he said. It is also building a space station in low Earth orbit and is working toward a human landing on the moon, as well. ‘We have every reason to believe that we have a competitor, a very aggressive competitor, in the Chinese,’ Nelson said. ‘It’s the position of NASA and, I believe, the United States government that we want to be first back on the moon. … And we are getting geared up to go,’” Christian Davenport reports for the Washington Post.
The coronavirus has infected close to 46.70 million people and has now killed over 757,400 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 251.02 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.06 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.