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.
The Canadian government has invoked a series of emergency powers that include limits on public gatherings in a bid to end demonstrations in Ottawa and along the Canada-U.S. border. The measures, which represent one of the most striking responses by a Western government in response to protests against Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates, drew fire from some Canadian leaders and civil-liberties leaders. Paul Vieira and Kim Mackrael report for the Wall Street Journal.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that invoking the powers under the Emergencies Act, passed in 1988, will give police “more tools” to bring order to areas where public assemblies “constitute illegal and dangerous activities.” Ellen Francis and Andrew Jeong report for the Washington Post.
Under the emergency powers invoked by Trudeau, financial institutions will also get sweeping powers to halt the flow of funding to the Freedom Convoy protests. Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has said that banks will be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked with the protests without any need for a court order. BBC News reports.
Just Security has published by an essay by Ken Roach on how the ‘“Freedom Convoy” Occupation Highlights Canada’s Security Challenges’.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVOLPMENTS
Accountants for former President Trump’s company, Trump Organization, have said that are withdrawing from their work and can no longer stand by financial statements they had previously prepared, according to a letter made public yesterday. The letter signed by Mazars USA LLP’s general counsel, William J. Kelly, was included in court filings from the New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
In the letter Kelly said that Mazars reconsidered its work on Trump’s financial statements following questions raised by James’s office in a January court filing. “While we have not concluded that the various financial statements, as a whole, contain material discrepancies, based upon the totality of the circumstances, we believe our advice to you to no longer rely upon those financial statements is appropriate,” the letter said. Jonathan O’Connell and Shayna Jacobs report for the Washington Post.
The prosecutor for the federal hate crimes trial for the three White men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery began her case yesterday with a litany of the defendants’ past expressions of racism. The statements were not aimed at Arbery himself,f but they were exceptionally harsh and are key evidence in the government’s case that the men chased Arbery through their Georgia neighborhood because he was Black. Tariro Mzezewa, Audra D. S. Burch and Richard Fausset report for the New York Times.
Special counsel John Durham has accused Michael Sussman, a lawyer for the Democratic party, of sharing with the CIA internet data purporting to show Russian-made phones being used in the vicinity of the White House complex. Durham coached the accusation in vague technical language in a court filing on Friday, saying that his office had found nothing to support Sussman’s alleged claim that the information shared with the CIA “demonstrated that Trump and/or his associates were using supposedly rare, Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House and other locations.” Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez report for CNN.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
John Eastman, a law professor who worked with President Trump to turn over the 2020 election, has turned over nearly 8,000 pages of emails to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Eastman however has held aback about 11,000 pages on the basis that it is privileged material. The new numbers have been revealed in a court filing in an ongoing dispute regarding the Committee’s subpoena of Eastman’s Chapman University email account. Katelyn Polantz and Chandelis Duster report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – TROOPS
Russia’s Defense Ministry has said that some troops deployed from military districts bordering Ukraine are being loaded into trains and trucks and sent back to their garrisons. The announcement is a tentative sign that Russia could be stepping away from the threat of an invasion and de-escalating the military standoff. Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrew E. Kramer report for the New York Times.
The announced pullback of around 10,000 troops by Russia from Ukraine’s border, comes with mixed messages, with U.S. officials saying yesterday that the Russian military presence near Ukraine had grown to 105 battalion tactical groups, up from 83 groups earlier this month. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that: “a series of combat readiness drills, including exercises, have been completed in accordance with the plan.” But Gen. Konashenkov also said that Russian military forces “are continuing a number of large-scale exercises that involve practically all military districts, fleets and the Airborne Forces.” Matthew Luxmoore reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukraine has reacted cautiously to Russia’s announcement, with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba saying Kyiv would only believe that Russia was moving to de-escalate the situation if it saw for itself that Russian troops were being pulled back. U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has also expressed caution, saying that: “the Russians have claimed that they have no plans for an invasion, but we will need to see a full-scale removal of troops to show that is true.” Dmitry Antonov and Sarah Marsh report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
Russia’s top diplomat has endorsed Russia engaging in more talks to resolve the standoff with the West. In a staged televised meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian President Vladimir Putin that there was still a diplomatic path ahead, while Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that what he characterized as “large-scale drills” around Ukraine were coming to an end. Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrew E. Kramer report for the New York Times.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has left open the possibility of dropping Ukraine’s ambition to join the NATO alliance. During a news conference yesterday. Zelensky emphasized that NATO membership was “for our security,” “but he acknowledged the difficult place the country found itself in, nearly completely encircled by Russian forces and with partners like the United States insisting they would not send troops into Ukraine to repel a Russian invasion,” Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrew E. Kramer report for the New York Times.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is meeting with Putin in Moscow today. In opening remarks broadcast by Russian state media, Putin told Scholz that a “significant part” of their meeting would be focused on Ukraine and other matters of European security. In a joint news conference yesterday with Zelensky, Scholz also hinted at the possibility of concessions related to Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO. “Scholz reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to the principle of allowing every country choose its own alliances. But he also said the question was not currently on the table and urged for flexibility to de-escalate the current crisis,” Katrin Bennhold and Anton Troianovski report for the New York Times.
Ahead of their talks today, Putin told Scholz that Russian-Germany energy cooperation is a priority for Moscow, which views Germany as one of its main partners. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is heading to Brussels today for talks with NATO allies and to visit U.S. troops in Poland. Phil Stewart reports for Reuters.
U.S. intelligence and national security agencies met on Friday to discuss how President Biden’s administration might respond to cyberattacks from Russia in light of the Ukraine crisis. “The focus of the meeting was how U.S. agencies can work with companies across critical sectors of the economy to respond to potential hacking incidents, whether from criminal operations or state actors, the three officials said,” Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
Japan has said that democratic nations should take a tough line if Russia invades Ukraine, raising concerns that Russia’s actions may embolden other countries’ actions, such as China, in respect of their neighbors. “If something happens on the Ukraine border, that outcome might affect other people’s calculations in Asia,” Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in an interview. “We have to be very solid on this issue,” he added. Alastair Gale and Peter Landers report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned of a “dangerous moment for the world,” highlighting the “severe consequences” a war in Europe would have for the people in Ukraine and Russia and the “broader security for Europe.” Truss also raised the risk that the “highly likely” prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine could embolden other countries such as Iran and China to expand their ambitions. Jamie Grierson reports for the Guardian.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. government has requested the arrest and extradition of Juan Orlando Hernández, the former Honduran president who has been accused in federal court in New York of receiving money from drug cartels. However, Hernández will only be extradited to the U.S. if the Honduran Supreme Court, which the former president stacked with loyalists before he left office, implements the request. Joan Suazo and Maria Abi-Habib report for the New York Times.
Hours after the extradition request was sent to the Honduran Foreign Ministry yesterday, police officers surrounded Hernández’s house, who left office in January after his political party was ousted in elections last year. Honduran Security Minister Ramón Sabillón said police officers were preventing Hernández from fleeing ahead of a Supreme Court meeting later today to rule on the U.S. request and whether to issue an arrest warrant. Santiago Pérez and Juan Carlos Rivera report for the Wall Street Journal.
A Navy nuclear engineer has pleaded guilty to charges he tried to sell nuclear secrets to a foreign country and has admitted that he conspired with his wife in the espionage case. Jonathan Toebbe has been in custody since October, when FBI agents arrested him on charges that he and his wife, Diana Toebbe, conspired to share “restricted data,” a violation of the Atomic Energy Act that carries the possibility of a life sentence. Toebbe’s “plea deal does not resolve the charges against his wife…But it does undercut her claims of innocence,” Develin Barrett reports for the Washington Post.
Democrats have vowed to press ahead to secure the Senate confirmation of one of President Biden’s diplomat nominees, despite objections by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). Biden has tapped Celeste Wallander, CEO of the U.S.-Russia Foundation and former senior director on Russia for President Obama’s administration’s National Security Council, to serve as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. Mariana Alfaro reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s authoritarian government has taken five private universities under state control, in the government’s latest wide-ranging crackdown on dissent. “The government said the colleges were stripped of their ability to operate independently this month because they had not complied with financial regulations. Critics, however, saw the move as Ortega’s latest effort to clamp down on challenges to his tightening grip on power,” Yubelka Mendoza and Maria Abi-Habib report for the New York Times.
Atrocities committed by the Myanmar military against civilians may amount to war crimes, a report by the Myanmar human rights group Fortify Rights has claimed. The Myanmar military kidnapped civilians and forced them to work as human shields, attacked homes, churches and carried out massacres, according to the report. The report documents abuses by the military in Karenni state, also known as Kayah state, an area that has seen intense fighting between the army and groups opposed to last February’s military coup. Rebecca Ratcliffe reports for the Guardian.
Russia could extend Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment for up to a further 10 years in a fresh criminal trial. Navalny is accused of embezzling donations to his Anti-Corruption Foundation organization. He has denied the charges and calls them politically motivated. Andrew Roth reports for the Guardian.
In a historic trip yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has become the first Israeli leader to make an official visit to Bahrain. “The visit underscores the shifting geopolitical priorities of some Arab leaders who are now more concerned about containing a nuclear Iran — a concern they share with Israel — than they are about pressing Israel to reach a swift conclusion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 77.91 million people and has now killed over 922,400 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 413.74 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.82 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.