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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
A federal appeals court has granted former President Trump’s request to pause the release of White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Three judges, all appointed by Democrats, issued an injunction temporarily blocking the release of the files held by the National Archives, ahead of today’s deadline for the documents to be turned over. The panel asked lawyers for Trump, Congress, and President Biden’s administration to submit briefs for oral argument on Nov. 30. The panel wrote in a two-page order that “the purpose of this administrative injunction is to protect the court’s jurisdiction to address appellant’s claims of executive privilege and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits.” Kara Scannell reports for CNN.
The Jan. 6 select committee is pressuring former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to cooperate with their investigation and testify before the committee today. The Biden White House has said it will not assert executive privilege over documents and the deposition of Meadows requested by the committee. Jacqueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger report for the Washington Post.
The Jan. 6 select committee said in a letter to Meadows’ attorney that Meadows risked potential contempt charges if he fails to testify, in a remarkable turnaround from just days ago, when Meadows was said to still be “engaging” with the committee. In the letter Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, said that “there is no valid legal basis” for Meadows’ continued resistance to the committee’s subpoena. Lexi Lonas and Rebecca Beitsch report for The Hill.
White House Deputy Counsel Jonathan Su wrote a letter to Meadows’ attorney yesterday notifying him that Biden would not assert executive privilege over the documents. Su cited a “compelling need” by Congress to access the documents in the course of its investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. “The President believes that the constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield information reflecting an effort to subvert the Constitution itself, and indeed believes that such an assertion in this circumstance would be at odds with the principles that underlie the privilege,” Su wrote in the letter. Morgan Chalfant and Rebecca Beitsch report for The Hill.
POLAND BELARUS BORDER CRISIS
Belarus’s leader Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Europe if sanctions are imposed on the country. “We heat Europe, and they are still threatening us that they’ll shut the borders,” said Lukashenko in an emergency meeting with his top ministers. “And what if we cut off [the transit of] natural gas to them? So I would recommend that the leadership of Poland, Lithuanian and other brainless people to think before they speak,” Lukashenko said. Lukashenko’s comments added to fears of natural gas shortages and rising prices in Europe. The E.U.’s economy commissioner has said he considers that Lukashenko was bluffing. BBC News reports.
The E.U. is still expected to sanction up to 30 Belarusian individuals and entities, possibly including the national air carrier Belavia, despite Lukashenko’s threats to cut off a gas supply to Europe. Andrew Roth reports for the Guardian.
The Kremlin has said that it was not consulted before Lukashenko raised the possibility of cutting natural gas flows to Europe, and that Russia is a reliable exporter that fulfils its obligations. Reuters reports.
The U.N. Security Council has discussed the border crisis, but has not taken any action, while the E.U. members of the Council (Estonia, France and Ireland), the U.K., Norway, Albania and the U.S. have issued a joint statement accusing Lukashenko of putting human beings at risk for “political purposes.” The joint statement however made no mention of Russia, and Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, rejected Western allegations that it was working in conjunction with Minsk to send the migrants into Poland. Polyanskiy also accused Europe of being the cause of the crisis by trying to keep migrants out. Rick Gladstone reports for the New York Times.
The situation at a refugee camp on the Belarus-Poland border is “catastrophic” and will be “even worse” in a day’s time, a representative for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has said, following a visit to the area. Katharina Krebs reports for CNN.
Live reporting on the Belarus-Poland border crisis is provided by Kara Fox and Ed Upright for CNN.
The U.S. reportedly is discussing with the E.U. concerns that Russia may be preparing for an invasion of Ukraine. “With Washington closely monitoring a buildup of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, U.S. officials have briefed E.U. counterparts on their concerns over a possible military operation, according to multiple people familiar with the matter,” Alberto Nardelli, Jennifer Jacobs and Nick Wadhams report for Bloomberg.
The Kremlin has dismissed the Bloomberg report which suggested that the U.S. is worried that Russia will launch an attack on Ukraine. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that “Russia is not a threat to anyone,” adding that Moscow was the one who had observed an increase in what he called provocative behaviour from its opponents. Reuters reports.
The Russian Defense Ministry has accused the U.S. military of “aggressive” action in the Black Sea, which it claims poses a threat to regional and strategic stability, the Interfax news agency has reported. “The ministry added that it had detected six NATO reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea in the past 24 hours,” Reuters reports.
Ukraine’s top diplomat has warned that Russia may be looking to “move further” into Ukraine amid increasing tensions in the region. In an interview with ABC News Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “we do not want to scare anyone, but we have to remain vigilant.” “We are extremely worried, but listen — when you live next to Russia for seven years in an armed conflict, you kind of learn to be worried. You get used to it,” Kuleba added. Conor Finnegan and Mary Alice Parks report for ABC News.
Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen breached the compound in Sanaa that housed the American Embassy and detained Yemeni security employees of the U.S. government, the State Department has said. The U.S. diplomatic mission suspended operations in 2015, near the start of the civil war in Yemen, and the U.S. ambassador and key staff were relocated to Saudi Arabia. “A spokesperson for the State Department said Thursday that a ‘majority’ of the U.S. Embassy staff that were detained have been released and that Washington was engaging in ‘unceasing’ diplomatic efforts to free the security guards still in custody. It is not clear why the Yemeni employees were detained, and State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday that he was not able to say how many were detained,” Amy Cheng and Siobhán O’Grady report for the Washington Post.
President Biden’s administration is weighing the sale of armed drones to Indonesia, amid concerns over human rights abuses in Indonesia and the country’s past purchases of Russian equipment, according to government and defense industry officials. The Indonesian government wants new armed drones as it modernizes its fleet of aging fighter planes, and reportedly is considering purchasing planes from Russia, South Korea, France and the United States. Paul Mclearly and Lee Hudson report for POLITICO.
The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, the U.S., and Israel have launched joint naval exercises for the first time, U.S. and Israeli military officials have said. The five-day exercises are taking place in the Red Sea, a year after the two Gulf Arab countries normalized ties with Israel. The training focuses on maritime “visit, board, search and seizure tactics” and will “enhance interoperability” between the four participating navies, the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet said in a statement. The Defense Post reports.
U.S. journalist Danny Fester has been sentenced to 11 years in prison in Myanmar after being found guilty of incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations, his lawyer has said. Fenster, who had been managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was arrested in May as he was returning to the United States. The U.S. government previously has described the charges as “profoundly unjust.” Fester still faces two additional charges in a different court for allegedly violating the counterterrorism law and a statute covering treason and sedition. The Guardian reports.
A Venezuelan judge has granted a rare appeal to six U.S. oil executives who have been jailed in Venezuela for four years on corruption charges. The six men were arrested in 2017 in Venezuela and were convicted of embezzlement in 2020 in a trial marred by delays and irregularities. AP reports.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make his first trip to Africa next week. Blinken will visit Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal between Nov. 15 and Nov. 20. The trip is intended to “advance U.S.-Africa collaboration on shared global priorities,” such as ending the Covid-19 pandemic, combating climate change, revitalizing democracy and advancing peace and security, according to a State Department press release. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is receiving support from former President Trump and his allies in questioning the legitimacy of the presidential elections scheduled for next year in Brazil. Trump’s allies have helped paint Bosonaro’s rivals as criminals and are amplifying claims that the Brazilian election will be rigged. Steve Bannon said that Bolsonaro will lose only if machines steal the election. Bolsonaro is increasingly unpopular and the Trump support is giving him a boost to rally the right in Brazil. But some experts worry that Bolsonaro’s early efforts to question the election’s integrity could “get out of hand.” Authorities, academics, electoral officials and the U.S. government have all said Brazilian elections have not been marked by fraud in the past. Jack Nicas reports for the New York Times.
Border crossings by Haitian migrants into the U.S. fell by more than 90% in October. About 1,000 Haitians were taken into custody at the Mexican border in October compared to 17,638 in October. The change came after the Biden administration increased its use of deportation flights, sending as many as seven flights per day back to Haiti. Nick Miroff reports for the Washington Post.
A bomb exploded in a mosque in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province during today’s prayers, wounding at least 15 people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The Islamic State group militants have been waging a campaign in the province, conducting nearly daily shootings and bombings targeting Taliban fighters. However, previous attacks on mosques by the Sunni militant group since the Taliban takeover have struck Shi’ite mosques and the attack today targeted a mosque. which was frequented by Sunni Muslims. AP reports.
The State Department has arranged a means out of Afghanistan for the last remaining U.S. citizens who are seeking to leave, a senior State Department official has said. The official said an “important milestone” had been reached, while acknowledging that the “mission will continue. These numbers are nothing more than a snapshot on any given day.” The situation on the ground is shifting rapidly, with up to 80 U.S. citizens who have requested assistance not yet having departed and hundreds of others choosing to remain in the country for now. Conor Finnegan and Libby Cathey report for ABC News.
Representatives from the U.S., Russia, China, and Pakistan have met to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The group also met with Taliban representatives. A similar meeting previously occurred in Moscow without the United States. The group expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and called on the Taliban to allow humanitarian access. Jennifer Hansler for CNN.
Hundreds of Afghans have been forced to leave safe houses in Afghanistan after the volunteer group, Task Force Argo, failed to negotiate their passage out of the country or provide financial support. “The Afghans include U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, former U.S. government [local employees], and others who worked on U.S. funded projects, as well as their families. They have been told to return to their homes or to fund their own accommodation in hope of a future flight,…Task Force Argo said,” Jessica Donati reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The FBI has warned U.S. companies that Iranian hackers have searched cybercriminal websites for sensitive data stolen from American and foreign organizations that could be used in future efforts to hack those organizations. In an advisory sent to U.S. companies, the FBI underscored the risk of computer operatives exploiting the cybercriminal underworld, where some cybercriminal groups continue to publish data about their victims to pressure them into paying money to unlock their computers. In particular, the FBI is concerned that an Iranian hacking group could use the information to plot ways into U.S. corporate networks in the future. “If your organization’s information was previously compromised, the FBI recommends considering how any data exfiltrated could be leveraged to conduct further malicious activity against your network,” says the FBI bulletin. Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
President Biden has signed legislation that will prevent companies deemed security threats from receiving new equipment licenses from U.S. regulators. The Secure Equipment Act is the latest effort to target Chinese telecom and tech companies, such as Huawei and ZTE Corp, and prevent their technology from entering the American communications network. The law requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to not approve or authorize any application for equipment that poses “an unacceptable risk to national security.” The FCC previously approved more than 3,000 applications by Huawei since 2018. David Shepardson reports for Reuters.
Vice President Harris has called for global leaders to work together to counter cybersecurity threats and protect an open Internet. Harris’s remarks came the day after she committed the United States to signing on to the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, an initiative announced by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
A bipartisan group of almost 100 former national security officials is urging Congress to take steps to secure elections ahead of next year, warning that the nation’s democratic institutions are at risk. In an open letter, the officials, including former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, former Defense Secretary William Cohen and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, wrote: “we write to express our alarm at ongoing efforts to destabilize and subvert our elections, both through active disinformation campaigns and the related efforts to inject partisan interference into our professionally administered election process…We believe these efforts are profoundly damaging to our national security, including by making our elections more vulnerable to foreign interference and possible manipulation.” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
France is hosting an international conference today aimed at ensuring that Libya adheres to plans for holding elections in December. Vice President Harris, the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, are to attend the talks in Paris, where world powers also are expected to endorse efforts to remove armed forces from Libya. BBC News reports.
Those attempting to obstruct the election process and the political transition in Libya will be held accountable and may face U.N. sanctions, according to the draft conclusions from today’s conference on Libya. Reuters reports.
The U.K. has urged Iran to back a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, as talks to revive the deal are set to resume in Vienna on Nov. 29. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister and lead negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, came to the U.K. Foreign Office in London to set out his country’s demands. “At the meeting, Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly told his counterpart that Iran should take the opportunity of the new talks to conclude a deal that he said was already on table. The Iranians said the nuclear deal was discussed, without noting any specifics,” BBC News reports.
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele had deployed military troops to patrol the streets in the capital city of San Salvador and other areas, in an effort to combat rising homicide rates in the country. The announcement comes after El Salvador witnessed more than 30 murders on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. “We have deployed our national police and armed forces to contain the increase in homicides registered over the last 48 hours,” Bukele said in a Facebook post, adding on Twitter that “there are dark forces who are working to return us to the past, but this administration is not going to allow it.” DW News reports.
A senior Palestinian official has said that the phones of three high-ranking Palestinian diplomats were hacked by the Pegasus spyware made by the private Israeli firm NSO Group. The accusation has not been verified by independent hacking experts. “The Palestinian official, Ahmed al-Deek, an assistant foreign minister, accused Israel of having used Pegasus to hack the phones of three senior Palestinian diplomats,” Patrick Kingsley and Rawan Sheikh Ahmad report for the New York Times.
Chinese officials are working to get Uyghurs in foreign countries deported back to China. The officials are creating visa problems for Uyghurs and coercing them to become informants, according to documents submitted by Uyghur representatives to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This is the third attempt to have Chinese authorities investigated by the ICC. The ICC rejected previous complaints because China is outside its jurisdiction but asked for further evidence. Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has appointed a new interior minister and minister for national defense, having sacked both previous ministers this week. Arsenia Felicidade Felix Massingue was appointed as the country’s first female interior minister and Cristóvão Artur Chume was appointed as the new minister for national defense. BBC News reports.
A new draft agreement at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow has stepped up calls for governments to tackle climate change urgently, even as it softens commitments to reduce fossil fuel use. The agreement asks countries to articulate plans to accelerate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by next year’s climate summit, while strengthening commitments to support poorer countries fight climate change. Despite lobbying from the fossil fuel industry, the agreement retains an unprecedented reference to fossil fuels, although in a weaker form than a previous draft. Georgina Rannard reports for BBC News.
The full text of the draft COP26 agreement published today can be read on CNN.
As the COP26 summit nears its end, there is growing concern that the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C is unlikely to be met. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said that the goal was on “life support” and he admitted that the summit would likely not succeed in reducing CO2 emissions enough to limit global warming to no more than 1.5C. Seth Borensteign and Frank Jordans report for AP.
The coronavirus has infected over 46.85 million people and has now killed over 759,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 252.08 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.08 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.