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
Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff of former President Trump, is now cooperating with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. In a statement Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee’s chair, said that Meadows “has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition…The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition.” Mary Clare Jalonick and Eric Tucker report for AP.
Thompson has told reporters that Meadows has turned over “probably about 6,000 emails” to the Jan. 6 select committee. Thompson added that the committee has taken the threat of recommending Meadows in contempt of Congress “off the table for the time being.” Ellis Kim, Melissa Quinn and Caroline Linton report for CBS News.
Federal appeals judges expressed skepticism yesterday at arguments by Trump’s lawyers that a former president should be able to ask a court to second-guess the incumbent president’s decision about executive privilege and what was in the country’s best interest. The judges “probed — and occasionally tore apart — arguments by Trump’s attorneys that a former president should be able to sue a current president over executive privilege decisions in a broad array of situations, and that the incumbent shouldn’t get as much weight in those fights as Congress and the executive branch were arguing for,” Zoe Tillman reports for BuzzFeed News.
Key takeaways from the appeals court hearing on Trump’s claim to keep his White House records private from the Jan. 6 select committee are provided by Tierney Sneed and Katelyn Polantz reporting for CNN.
The Jan. 6 select committee has released its contempt report against Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, laying out Clark’s lack of cooperation with the panel. The panel is preparing for a vote today on whether to recommend that the full House refers Clark to the Department of Justice for prosecution for contempt of Congress. The report contains back-and-forth exchanges between Clark’s attorney and the committee, and also includes a copy of the previously undisclosed full subpoena to Clark, outlining an interest in whether Trump weighed “filing documents in the United States Supreme Court regarding allegations of election fraud and/or the certification of the results of the election.” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) spoke with the Jan. 6 select committee for roughly four hours yesterday, according to his office and an aide working for the committee. “I spoke to the January 6th committee to ensure they included the full record of how stolen election claims damage our democracy — whether in 2016, 2018, or 2020,” Raffensperger, said in a statement to CNN. Zachary Cohen, Jason Morris, Sara Murray, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer report for CNN.
The Jan. 6 select committee has not subpoenaed the phone records of any members of Congress but is likely to do so, sources have said. Seizing lawmakers’ private communications would be a controversial decision, and one that has already sparked preemptive resistance from House Republicans. Betsy Woondruff Swan and Heather Caygle report for POLITICO.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Ten redacted passages in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — including one that discusses the decision not to bring criminal charges against Donald Trump Jr. and others — were ordered to be revealed yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The ruling follows a yearslong legal battle by BuzzFeed News. In an 18-page opinion the court “unanimously ruled that there is a ‘significant public interest’ in lifting the veil of secrecy that ‘disclosure would also show how the Special Counsel interpreted the relevant law and applied it to already public facts in reaching his declination decisions,’” Jason Leopold reports for BuzzFeed News.
Advocates are using the annual defense bill (the National Defense Authorization Act) to test expansions of protections for women in the military. Despite ongoing disagreements between Republicans and Democrats on amendments to the Bill, several efforts to accommodate women or address issues that disproportionately impact women are being implemented. The efforts have bipartisan support, and include sexual assualt reforms and expanding paid parental leave. Sophia Cai reports for Axios.
The Senate is nearing a deal to pass the annual defense bill today, after Republicans blocked the bill earlier this week. Democrats and Republicans are holding votes today on 21 amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, after which the Senate would vote on final passage of the defense bill, a source has said. The package of amendments includes a proposal from Sen. James Risch (R-IA), the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, that would impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a Senate aide has said. Jordain Carney reports for The Hill.
A group of House Democrats have called on Republican leaders to discipline Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) for a series of Islamophobic comments she has made in recent months against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and other Muslim lawmakers in Congress. Mike Lillis reports for The Hill.
In Trump’s final months in office, former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker headed a project for the right-wing nonprofit FreedomWorks, asking the White House for pardons and commutations for “deserving individuals,” according to FreedomWorks. Whitaker however never registered as a lobbyist while advocating for pardons and FreedomWorks, who paid Whitaker $400,000 last year in “consulting” fees according to a federal filing, never named clemency issues in any of its 2020 lobbying reports. Roger Sollenberger reports for The Daily Beast.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE, BELARUS
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tomorrow amid worsening tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The plan for talks comes as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba joined the second day of meetings of NATO foreign ministers on the situation. Kuleba called for NATO member states to prepare to sanction Moscow in response to the Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian border. Meanwhile, a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said that Ukraine had deployed half of its military, or 125,000 troops, to the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine where Moscow has backed separatist fighters. DW News reports.
NATO yesterday warned that its members would impose significant political and economic costs on Russia if it launched a new military incursion into Ukraine, while also making clear that NATO members have no obligation to defend Ukraine. Ukraine is a NATO partner, but not a member, and is therefore not covered by the alliance’s mutual defense pact. James Marson and William Mauldin report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Kremlin has said it cannot de-escalate tensions with the West over Ukraine due to a large concentration of Ukrainian forces near its border. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov repeated the accusation that Ukraine has deployed half of its army to a conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, and said that Moscow was seriously worried about the large number of Ukrainian troops near Russia. Reuters reports.
Russia is ordering U.S. embassy staff who have been in Moscow for more than three years to leave Russia by Jan. 31, in a retaliatory move for what Moscow has said is a U.S. decision to limit the length of terms of Russian diplomats in the U.S.. The step is the latest in an escalating diplomatic row, with Russia’s ambassador to the United States saying last week that 27 Russian diplomats and their families were being expelled from the United States and would leave on Jan. 30. Reuters reports.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has said that he is ready to suspend Russian energy flows into Europe if Poland closes its border with Belarus, Russia’s RIA news agency has reported. Meanwhile, “the Polish Defense Minister said the Belarusian defense attaché had been summoned after lights set up by Polish soldiers near the town of Terespol were damaged by shots from air guns,” Reuters reports.
Senior European diplomats warned yesterday that negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal could be terminated if Iran moved to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel. The diplomats from the three Western European nations that are participating in the talks (Britain, France and Germany) also said that it was not “yet clear if Iran’s negotiating team, participating in its first round of talks under new hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, was serious about reaching an agreement,” Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Australia won’t lose its sovereignty under the AUKUS deal, according to Kurt Campbell, Biden’s top Indo-Pacific adviser. Campbell has sought to clarify his earlier prediction of a “melding” of Australian, U.S. and U.K. military forces by the AUKUS pact. Campbell also accused Beijing of waging “dramatic economic warfare” against Australia by imposing tariffs and unofficial import bans on Australian goods. Daniel Hurst reports for the Guardian.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other top military officials, including Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are set to gather in South Korea today to discuss the future of the U.S.-South Korea military alliance and how to counter threats from North Korea. Reuters reports.
The wife of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison and four years of supervised release, along with a forfeiture of $1.5 million, in connection with drug trafficking and money laundering charges related to her husband’s narcotics empire. Emma Coronel Aispuro pleaded guilty in June to the charges. Addressing the court, Coronel expressed remorse for her involvement with Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel, and the harm she may have caused U.S. citizens. Maria Santana reports for CNN.
The Justice Department has announced the sentencing of the last member of an international hacking group, known as “The Community” indicted for allegedly stealing millions in cryptocurrency as part of a “SIM hijacking” effort from 2019. Missouri-based Garrett Endicott was sentenced Monday to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of more than $120,000. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A former member of the Islamic State group has been convicted by a German court of genocide and committing a war crime over the death of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl he had purchased as a slave and who then died when she was chained up in the sun. The defendant’s German wife was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison over the girl’s death. The girl’s mother, who survived captivity, testified at both trials and took part as a co-plaintiff. AP reports.
Tens of thousands marched in Sudan’s capital, and other cities, yesterday against a military takeover that took place last month, with security forces firing tear gas at the anti-coup protesters. Ashraf Idris reports for AP.
Ethiopian soldiers, supported by regional forces, have recaptured territory in the Amhara region from Tigray rebel fighters, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s office has said. Reuters reports.
Turkey’s lira has plummeted to a record low after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his policy of demanding lower interest rates despite rising inflation. Erdogan said he hoped interest rates would continue to fall until Turkey’s next national election in 2023, sparking another selloff of the lira. “The president holds the unconventional view that cutting interest rates is the best way to stop soaring inflation and spur economic growth,” Jared Malsin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has warned that, without quick and decisive action, Israel and Palestine risk plunging into “another deadly escalation of violence.” “Tor Wennesland told the U.N. Security Council it’s essential that the parties ‘calm things on the ground,’ reduce violence across the Palestinian territories, avoid unilateral steps including new Israeli settlement building, and solidify the May cease-fire that ended an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip. In addition, he called for urgent action to tackle the severe fiscal and economic crisis threatening the stability of Palestinian institutions in the West Bank,” Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
Saudi Arabia used “incentives and threats” to shut down a U.N. investigation of human right violations committed by all sides in the Yemen conflict, according to sources. The U.N. human rights council voted in October against extending the independent war crimes investigation. “Speaking to the Guardian, political officials and diplomatic and activist sources with inside knowledge of the lobbying push described a stealth campaign in which the Saudis appear to have influenced officials in order to guarantee defeat of the measure,” Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports for the Guardian.
Japan and the U.S. could not stand by if China attacked Taiwan, and Beijing needs to understand this, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said. Abe, speaking virtually at a forum organized by a Taiwanese think tank, said that an armed invasion of Taiwan would be a grave danger to Japan, noting the Senkaku islands — called the Diaoyu Islands by China — which are only 100 kilometers (62 miles) or so away from Taiwan. Reuters reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 48.55 million people and has now killed over 780,200 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 262.95 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.21 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The chief executive of Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, has predicted that existing vaccines will be less effective against the new Omicron Covid-19 variant and has warned that it would take months before pharmaceutical companies could manufacture new variant-specific jabs at scale. “Bancel said the high number of Omicron mutations on the spike protein…and the rapid spread of the variant in South Africa suggested that the current crop of vaccines may need to be modified next year,” Jamie Smyth reports for the Financial Times.
The new Omicron Covid-19 variant has been identified by Dutch health authorities in cases dating back as long as 11 days, indicating that the variant was already spreading in western Europe before the first cases were identified in southern Africa. “It is not yet clear whether the people concerned [in the earlier cases] have also been to southern Africa,” the RIVM health institute (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) has said. CBS News reports.
Two new rulings by separate federal judges yesterday have temporarily halted parts of the Biden administration’s mandatory Covid-19 vaccine policy for certain workers. “One ruling, issued by a Louisiana-based federal judge, effectively blocked a vaccine mandate for health workers across the country at hospitals that receive federal funding. A second ruling, by a Kentucky-based federal judge, paused the administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee,” John Kruzel reports for The Hill.
National Guard members who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will be barred from training and have their pay withheld, the Pentagon has said. Alex Horton reports for the Washington Post.
Poland, Niger, Papua New Guinea, and Trinidad and Tobago were added to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “very high” risk travel category yesterday. Marnie Hunter and Forrest Brown 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.