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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
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has informed Mark Meadows, former President Trump’s former chief of staff, that the committee has “no choice” but to advance criminal contempt of Congress proceedings, given that Meadows has decided to no longer cooperate. The letter from the committee’s Chair, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), to Meadows’ attorney also reveals that prior to halting his cooperation Meadows had turned over approximately 6,000 pages worth of documents to the panel, including significant information from both his personal email account and cell phone. Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
Meadows has sued the Jan. 6 select committee and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in an attempt to persuade a federal judge to block the committee’s subpoena. The lawsuit accuses the committee of issuing “two overly broad and unduly burdensome subpoenas” against him, including one sent to Verizon for his phone and text data. “Meadows faces the harm of…being illegally coerced into violating the Constitution,” his lawsuit contends, claiming that the inquiries violate his constitutional rights to free speech and privacy. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Meadows’ lawsuit also notes that Trump had told him not to comply with the subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee, citing executive privilege. The combination of President Biden waiving the privilege claims and Trump then filing his own lawsuit, left Meadows “in the untenable position of choosing between conflicting privilege claims that are of constitutional origin and dimension,” the Meadows suit contends. Sadie Gurman and Siobhan Hughes report for the Wall Street Journal.
Trump ally Roger Stone has become the latest individual subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 select committee to say that he would plead the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination, as a means of avoiding cooperation. Stone is scheduled to attend a deposition with the committee on Dec. 17, however, in a letter to the committee, Stone’s lawyer wrote that “pursuant to the rights afforded him by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, [Stone] declines to be deposed or to produce documents.” Annie Grayer and Kaitlan Collins report for CNN.
Defense lawyers for defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack are starting to road test strategies. These include challenging the allegation that an organized conspiracy to storm the Capitol predated any violence, contending that the individuals were authorized by Trump to take part in the attack, and, for those defending individuals accused of assaulting the police, arguing that the officers themselves used excessive force on Jan. 6 and that their clients merely responded in self-defense. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
A prominent organizer of the Stop the Steal rallies with ties to far-right members of Congress is cooperating with the Jan. 6 select committee. Ali Alexander, who is scheduled to be deposed by the panel today, has pledged to deliver a trove of documents to the committee that could help shed light on the activities that preceded the attack, including the extent of planning by Trump and his Republican allies in Congress. Alan Feuer and Luke Broadwater report for the New York Times.
A low-profile heiress and Trump doner who “played a strong role” in financing organizations that helped stage and promote the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, is now facing public scrutiny as the Jan. 6 select committee seeks to expose the financing of the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. Julie Fancelli, the 72-year-old daughter of the founder of the Publix grocery store chain, wired a total of $650,000 to three organizations eight days before the Jan. 6 rally. Beth Reinhard, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey report for the Washington Post.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
New evidence disclosures both support and conflict with special counsel John Durham’s indictment of Michael Sussman, a prominent cybersecurity lawyer, for lying to the FBI about whether he was representing a client during a Sep. 2016 meeting about former President Trump’s possible links to Russia. One piece of newly disclosed evidence, described in a filing by Durham’s team, consists of handwritten notes of an FBI lawyer saying that Sussman told the FBI he did not have a client. However, at a hearing yesterday, a lawyer for Sussmann cited evidence turned over by the prosecutors last week that muddies that picture and suggests Sussman may instead have told the FBI he had a client. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
The Kremlin expects a swift start to U.S.-Russia talks on the confrontation over Ukraine, following the video call between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin called the talks with Biden “open, substantive and constructive,” while underscoring Russia’s demand that Ukraine not be considered for NATO membership. “We can continue this dialogue. It seems to me that’s the main thing,” Putin said yesterday. Robyn Dixon and David L. Stern report for the Washington Post.
Putting additional U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine is “not on the table,” Biden told reporters yesterday. The NATO obligation to provide defense support to its members “does not extend to … Ukraine,” Biden added. Biden said that it would “depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well,” but rejected the idea that the U.S. would “unilaterally use force to confront Russia” if it were to invade Ukraine. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill
The final elements of a U.S. $60 million security assistance package, including small arms and ammunition, which is designed to bolster Ukraine’s self-defense capability, is set to arrive in Ukraine this week. Biden approved the package on Sep. 1 when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the White House. Oren Liebermann reports for CNN.
The U.S. has threatened Russia with harsh economic sanctions if it were to launch a military offensive against Ukraine, however threats to squeeze Russia’s economy is a tactic which has had a mixed record in the past. Patricia Cohen provides analysis for the New York Times.
Satellite images are offering a partial snapshot of the material associated with the growing Russian forces at the Ukrainian border. Paul Sonne, Ruby Mellen and Laris Karklis provide analysis for the Washington Post.
French authorities have released a man previously believed to have been a suspect in the murder of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, citing a case of mistaken identity. The suspect, who was detained on an outstanding Turkish arrest warrant dating to November 2018, was thought to be Khalid Aedh al-Otaibi, a Saudi national wanted in connection with Khashoggi’s murder. French authorities have said that the man was released from detention after “thorough checks’” determined that the warrant did not apply to him. Rick Noack and Sarah Dadouch report for the Washington Post.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is visiting Qatar today for the first time since Saudi Arabia rallied other Arab states to end their yearslong rift and embargo on Qatar. Aya Batrawy reports for AP.
CHINA, HONG KONG
The U.K. and Canada have joined a widening diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing concerns over China’s human rights record. Kim Mackrael reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S., U.K. and Australia will “pay the price for their mistaken acts” after deciding not to send government delegations to the Winter Olympics, China’s foreign ministry has said. “The United States, Britain and Australia have used the Olympics platform for political manipulation,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry. Reuters reports.
China is not worried about a “domino effect” of diplomatic boycotts of the Winter Olympics. “Most countries in the world have expressed support for the Beijing Winter Olympics,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news conference today. Reuters reports.
The House has passed measures to exert diplomatic pressure on the Chinese government and International Olympic Committee for alleged failures to uphold human rights. The three separate bills passed yesterday address the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and tennis player Peng Shua. Cristina Marcos reports for The Hill.
Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai and two other prominent activists have been convicted in Hong Kong for inciting and taking part in a vigil to mark the Tiananmen massacre last June. The trio had contested their charges, arguing during their trial that they had lit candles during the vigil in a personal capacity, and had not “incited” others to join the unauthorized rally. BBC News reports.
The Biden administration is moving to tighten enforcement of sanctions against Iran, according to senior State and Treasury Department officials. According to the officials, the U.S. is sending a top-level delegation, including the head of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, next week to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to meet with petrochemicals companies and other private firms and banks in the UAE trading with Iran. The delegation intends to warn the firms that the U.S. has “visibility on transactions that are not compliant with sanctions,” one of the senior officials said, and that the firms “face extreme risk if this continues.” Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A growing number of former Israeli security officials are publicly blaming Tel Aviv for opposing the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, while warning that economic sanctions against Iran are not slowing its nuclear progress. Shira Rubin reports for the Washington Post.
The U.S. Navy has seized 171 surface-to-air missiles, eight anti-tank missiles, and 1.1 million barrels of petroleum products worth $261 million from two Iranian ships in the Arabian Sea in three separate instances since 2019. In a press release, the Department of Justice said that the Navy seized the weapons in November 2019 and August 2020 during “routine maritime security operations.” The arms shipments were headed to Iran-backed militants fighting in Yemen in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. Treasury has accused El Salvador’s government of secretly negotiating a truce with imprisoned leaders of the country’s top criminal gangs. The deal aimed “to ensure that incidents of gang violence and the number of confirmed homicides remained low,” the Treasury said, adding that the deal also secured the gang’s political support for El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele’s ruling party in midterm elections earlier this year. The Treasury is “imposing sanctions on Osiris Luna, El Salvador’s Deputy Justice Minister and Prisons Director, and Carlos Marroquín, head of a welfare agency, for their participation in the secret negotiations,” Santiago Pérez reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Lebanese authorities have freed Nada Homsi, a freelance U.S. journalist who was detained in Beirut last month. “The release came just hours after two international human rights groups called her detention arbitrary and demanded that she be set free. Homsi…said after her release that her arrest was part of an intimidation campaign used by Lebanon’s security agencies against foreign journalists,” Bassem Mroue reports for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) has suspended distribution of food aid in two northern Ethiopian towns after gunmen looted its warehouses. “Looters from rebel Tigrayan forces held aid staff at gunpoint in the town of Kombolcha, the United Nations said. They stole large quantities of essential food supplies – including some for malnourished children… [A U.N.] spokesperson also accused government troops of commandeering three WFP humanitarian trucks and using them for their own purposes,” BBC News reports.
Meta has announced that it will ban Myanmar military-controlled businesses from Facebook, wiping out their pages, groups and accounts. The move expands existing restrictions on those entities, which were already barred from advertising on the platform in February. Michelle Toh reports for CNN.
The death toll from weekend clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s western Darfur region has increased to at least 88 people, a Sudanese medical group said yesterday. “The fighting grew out of a financial dispute late Saturday between two individuals in a camp for displaced persons in the Kreinik area in West Darfur province. The following day, Arab militias known as janjaweed attacked the camp and surrounding villages,” AP reports.
A Belarusian who used to work as an air traffic controller at Minsk’s airport has defected to the E.U. and is providing detailed evidence on the Ryanair flight that was forced to land in Minsk earlier this year. The defector’s evidence supported the view that the flight was targeted for a fake bomb threat as part of an operation orchestrated by Belarus’s intelligence service to grab dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, European security officials have said. Andrew Higgins and Tomas Dapkus report for the New York Times.
The E.U. has proposed new measures that would allow it to punish parties seeking to influence its political policies through economic pressure. The European Commission has put forward an “anti-coercion instrument” relating to what it views as unfair trade pressure. The measure would give the Commission wide-ranging powers to impose punitive sanctions on individuals, companies, and countries. Sanctions could include tariffs and quotas, the restriction of intellectual property rights, and limiting access to the bloc’s financial markets, public procurement, and E.U.-funded research programs. Monika Pronczuk reports for the New York Times.
A military helicopter crashed yesterday in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, killing Indian Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat and 12 others, the Indian air force has said. The Indian air force has launched an inquiry into the incident, which it described as an “unfortunate accident.” Local media outlets quoted residents saying that the helicopter may have accidentally struck a tree. Gerry Shih and Niha Masih report for the Washington Post.
The Indian air force helicopter lost contact with air traffic control seven minutes before it was supposed to land and sent no distress call before it was found in flames in a forested area, India’s defense minister has said. Ashok Sharma reports for AP.
Nearly 100 former British Council staff employed to teach British values and the English language remain in hiding in Afghanistan after their applications to come to the U.K., continue to be delayed. Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
Covid-19 vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that preliminary lab studies show a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can improve protection against the Omicron Covid-19 variant. Jacqueline Howard reports for CNN.
In a largely symbolic move, the Senate has approved legislation aimed at nullifying President Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for private employers. Eliza Collins reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The coronavirus has infected over 49.53 million people and has now killed over 793,200 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 267.88 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.28 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.