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.
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
The Kremlin has rebutted growing U.S. warnings about a buildup of Russian troops and military assets at Russia’s border with Ukraine that could be used to attack Ukraine, accusing Washington of seeking to destabilize the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russian forces were conducting routine exercises and other necessary drills and that it “doesn’t pose a threat to anyone and should not cause concern to anyone.” Anne M. Simmons and Laurence Norman report for the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden’s administration is weighing sending military advisers and new equipment including weapons to Ukraine, as Russia builds up forces near the border, multiple sources have said. The proposed lethal aid package from the U.S. to Ukraine could include air defense systems, new Javelin anti-tank and anti-armor missiles as well as mortars, according to the sources. “But others in the administration are concerned that sending stingers and helicopters could be seen by Russia as a major escalation. And while they are prepared to send some military advisers into the region, it is unclear whether any would go into Ukraine itself, the people said,” Natasha Bertrand, Jim Sciutto and Katie Bo Lillis report for CNN.
The Kremlin has said that any decision by the U.S. to send military advisers and more military hardware to Ukraine would further fuel tensions. Responding to the CNN report, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told a briefing that “we are seriously concerned by Ukraine’s actions on the line of contact in eastern Ukraine and the possibility of a Ukrainian decision to use force there.” Reuters reports.
Two refitted former U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats intended to bolster the Ukrainian navy have arrived at a Ukrainian port, the Ukrainian navy has said. Reuters reports.
The U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria has voiced “deep concern” over Bulgarian President Rumen Radev’s comments about Crimea belonging to Russia. In a presidential debate with his center-right opponent Anastas Gerdzhikov on Thursday, Radev said that the Crimean Peninsula was “currently Russian,” adding, “what else can it be?” “The United States, G-7, European Union, and NATO have all been clear and united in our position that, despite Russia’s attempted annexation and ongoing occupation, Crimea is Ukraine,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. AP reports.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged yesterday to lead government soldiers from the front line in a war with advancing rebels. “Starting tomorrow, I will mobilize to the front to lead the defense forces,” Abiy said in a statement posted on Twitter. Erin Cunningham reports for the Washington Post.
The children of West and Central Africa are the most recruited by armed groups in the world and also have the highest number of victims of sexual violence, a report from the U.N. Children’s Fund has said. Over the past five years, during which the region has seen increased conflicts, more than 21,000 children have been recruited by government forces and armed groups, says the report. In addition, more than 2,200 children in the region have been victims of sexual violence since 2016, and more than 3,500 children have been abducted, said the report. Sam Mednick reports for AP.
Sudan’s reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said, in an interview that aired yesterday, that he will have the authority to form his own independent government under the agreement he signed with Sudan’s military generals who overthrew him in a coup last month. Hamdok also said that the government in Sudan needs to be independent, and that he foresaw the next government as focusing on rewriting the country’s constitution and holding elections on time. AP reports.
Militia targeting a camp for displaced people in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have killed at least a dozen people in attacks on two villages in the Ituri province. The vast majority of those killed in the villages of Drodro and Mba/Dongo were civilians. Jean-Yves Kamale reports for AP.
A Saudi-led coalition has launched air attacks on Iranian-backed Houthi rebel targets in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a. Saudi state television reported that civilians were asked to avoid gathering or going near the “legitimate” Houthi targets, and residents reported explosions across the city. The Saudi-led military alliance said that it had destroyed a Houthi ballistic missile launch site in overnight strikes in the city. Reuters reports.
One of Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest advisers testified against him yesterday in a long-running corruption case. Prosecutors are arguing that Netanyahu accepted expensive gifts from wealthy businessmen in exchange for official favors and offered two media moguls regulatory and financial benefits in exchange for positive press coverage. Thomas Grove reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), met today with Iranian officials to press for greater access for the IAEA in Iran ahead of the recommencement of the nuclear talks in Vienna. Grossi spoke with Mohammad Eslami, the new head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. After their talk, Eslami described the ongoing issues as “technical” and not governed by the “political issues and conspiracies” of Iran’s enemies. Grossi described the talks as “intense,” saying “we are continuing at this point our negotiations with a view to finding common ground.” Grossi was also due to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian today. Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell report for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The ruling Socialist government in Venezuela has claimed a landslide victory in local and state elections. The elections for the first time in four years included the participation of most of the country’s U.S.-backed opposition movement. However, “the results weren’t a surprise in a country where [President Nicolás] Maduro controls resources, access to the press and most of the members of the National Electoral Council,” Kejal Vyas and Juan Forero report for the Wall Street Journal.
Tony Chung, a young activist who called for Hong Kong’s independence from China, was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison today after pleading guilty to secession under Hong Kong’s national security law. His crime involved Facebook posts and speech, however, the judge said he had played an active role as an organizer and added “fuel to the flames” of secession. Shibani Mahtani and Theodora Yu report for the Washington Post.
India’s anti-terrorism agency has arrested Khurram Parvez, a prominent human rights activist in Indian-administered Kashmir. “The arrest of Parvez marks an escalation in the crackdown in Kashmir that has swept up activists, journalists, and even political leaders seen as critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which controversially revoked the region’s semi autonomous status in 2019, leading to protests,” Niha Masih, Gerry Shih and Shams Irfan report for the Washington Post.
Rights groups including the U.N. have criticized Parvez’s arrest, with Mary Lawlor, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, calling it “disturbing.” Reuters reports.
The U.N. has pushed for urgent action to prop up Afghanistan’s banks, warning that a spike in people who are unable to repay loans as well as lower deposits and a cash liquidity crunch could cause the financial system to collapse within months. In a report on Afghanistan’s banking and financial system, the U.N. Development Program said that the economic cost of a banking system collapse – and consequent negative social impact – “would be colossal.” Michelle Nichols reports for Reuters.
Chun Doo-hwan, the military leader who seized power in South Korea in a coup and ruled with an iron fist for most of the 1980s, has died aged 90 at his home in Seoul. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Fake news on social media platforms, including Facebook, aggravated the migrant crisis on the border of Belarus and Poland. Promises of borders being opened were circulated on social media, and helped smugglers profit off of desperate people trying to reach Europe. Andrew Higgins, Adam Satariano and Jane Arraf report for the New York Times.
A U.S. warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait today as part of what the U.S. military calls routine activity but which will likely add to Beijing’s perception that Washington is trying to stir regional tensions. The Navy said that the warship conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” through international waters in accordance with international law. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has issued five new subpoenas to former President Trump’s allies. The subpoenas focus on those who helped draw crowds to Washington, D.C. before the attack on Jan. 6, and include the political operative Roger J. Stone Jr. and the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, said in relation to the new subpoenas, that the committee needs to know who organized, planned, paid for and received funds related to activities on Jan. 6, as well as what communications organizers had with people in the White House and Congress. Lindsay Wise and Alexa Corse report for the Wall Street Journal.
Lawyers for the Jan. 6 select committee, and the Justice Department urged a federal appeals court yesterday to permit Congress to see Trump’s White House records relating to the Jan. 6 attack, without waiting for litigation over Trump’s executive privilege claim to be resolved. In a 69-page brief the lawyers “stressed that the constitutional privilege exists to protect the executive branch, not an individual person, and that the incumbent president had declined to assert the privilege in this case,” Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
Trump’s inner circle, including former aides and advisers, are continuing to lean on unanswered legal questions about the scope of Trump’s authority to invoke executive privilege in their defiance of the Jan. 6 select committee’s subpoenas. Lawyers for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former strategist Steve Bannon are arguing that it would be premature to comply with the subpoenas before the courts can address the dispute over the scope and weight of Trump’s executive privilege claims. Rebecca Beitsch and Harper Neidig report for The Hill.
An Indiana man has been arrested and charged with bringing a loaded gun to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Department of Justice is to pay about $130 million to 40 survivors and families of victims of the 2018 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The family members and survivors sued over how the FBI handled tip warnings about the gunman before he killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Patricia Mazzei and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers made their closing arguments yesterday in the case of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, by three white men. In the closing arguments the question of whether race had been an issue, which was barely voiced during the trial, was raised by the lead prosecutor who told the jurors that the men had launched an attack on Arbery “because he was a Black man running down the street.” The defense countered that the men were carrying out a legal citizen’s arrest in an area that had been gripped by crime concerns. Richard Fausset, Tariro Mzezewa and Rick Rojas report for the New York Times.
The U.S. for the first time was added to a list of “backsliding democracies” in a report released yesterday by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Miriam Berger reports for the Washington Post.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is paying some personal legal bills for former President Trump in relation to criminal investigations into Trump’s financial practices in New York, a party spokesperson has said. In October, the RNC made two payments totaling $121,670 to the law firm of Ronald Fischetti, a veteran defense attorney who Trump hired in April. “Fischetti has been representing Trump as he faces investigations by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D). There has been no indication that either investigation involves Trump’s time as president or any of his political campaigns,” David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Shayna Jacobs report for the Washington Post.
A federal judge has ordered two Colorado lawyers who filed a lawsuit late last year challenging the 2020 election results to pay nearly $187,000 to cover the legal fees of groups they sued. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter said that the lawyers “need to take responsibility” for “prematurely repeating in court pleadings unverified and uninvestigated defamatory rumors that strike at the heart of our democratic system and were used by others to foment a violent insurrection that threatened our system of government.” Rosalind S. Helderman reports for the Washington Post.
The man accused of killing five after driving an SUV through a parade in Wisconsin intentionally struck people with the vehicle, but there is no indication that the attack was motivated by terrorism. Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson also added that there had been no pursuit by police officers before Darrell E. Brooks steered into the parade, though he was not able to say whether Brooks drove down the parade route in an attempt to escape an earlier confrontation with the police. Mitch Smith, Dan Simmons, Glenn Thrush and Serge F. Kovaleski report for the New York Times.
Brooks was charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide yesterday. Ben Kesling and Joe Barrett report for the Wall Street Journal.
Large biomanufacturing companies are being targeted by hackers potentially tied to Russia, researchers from the Bioeconomy Information Sharing and Analysis Center (BIO-ISAC) disclosed yesterday. BIO-ISAC said that the effort involves a type of malware labeled “Tardigrade” that was first detected following a ransomware attack on an unnamed major biomanufacturing facility this spring. The same malware was found at a second biomanufacturing facility last month. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
In a joint alert, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have warned organizations to be on guard against cyberthreats, particularly ransomware attacks, over the Thanksgiving holiday. The agencies “noted that while there were currently no ‘credible threats’ identified, hackers had previously launched attacks during holiday weekends when workers are often at home and less likely to be paying close attention to network security,” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Internet domain host GoDaddy has disclosed a recent data breach that resulted in the emails and customers numbers of 1.2 million Managed WordPress users being exposed. In a document filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission, GoDaddy warned that the data breach, which had been ongoing since September, increased the chances of email phishing attacks against impacted customers. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
The coronavirus has infected close to 47.89 million people and has now killed over 772,400 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been close to 258.40 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.16 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.