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.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Legal memos filed in recent days in the case against Michael Sussmann, a former Democratic party lawyer, have reignited disputes over special counsel John Durham’s continuing probe into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into ties between former President Trump’s campaign and Russia. In a filing last Friday, Durham said that people affiliated with former Secretary of State Hiliary Clinton worked to exploit nonpublic internet traffic data they had access to, including from the White House and the early days of Trump’s presidency, to establish a narrative tying Trump to Russia. “Responding on Monday, Sussmann’s lawyers called the allegations misleading and irrelevant, and said the White House data predated Trump’s inauguration,” Aruna Viswanatha and Byron Tau report for the Wall Street Journal.
Rifles manufacturer Remington Arms has settled with the families of victims from the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The settlement of $73m comes in response to a lawsuit by the families of nine of the 26 victims in the shooting. BBC News reports.
The settlement is the largest of its kind and first since a federal law was enacted in 2005 providing gun makers with broad protection from liability in the unlawful use of their weapons. Remington did not admit liability in the settlement, according to a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group. Joseph De Avila and Zusha Elinson report for the Wall Street Journal.
The families argued that Remington promoted sales of the weapon that appealed to troubled men like the shooter. “The agreement is a significant setback to the firearms industry because the lawsuit worked around the federal law protecting gun companies from litigation by arguing that the manufacturer’s marketing of the weapon had violated Connecticut consumer law,” Rick Rojas, Karen Zraick and Troy Closson for the New York Times.
The former Minneapolis police officer who pushed back bystanders as they urged officers to get off George Floyd took the stand in a federal trial over Floyd’s death yesterday. Tou Thao, who is one of three former Minneapolis officers on trial for violating Floyd’s civil rights, told a jury that he relied on the officers who were restraining Floyd to monitor the man’s condition and believed that because they weren’t performing CPR that Floyd was “fine.” Holly Bailey reports for the Washington Post.
Thao testified that he believed Floyd was experiencing a condition police call excited delirium in which suspects under the influence of drugs sometimes exhibit unusual strength, and that he believed Floyd’s life was in danger and that he needed to be sedated. Thao testified that he radioed in that the ambulance that was already on the way needed to come urgently. When asked by his lawyer why he hadn’t checked on Floyd’s condition himself, Thao responded: “I had a different role,” to control the crowd. Joe Barrett reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Prosecutors in the federal hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s pursuers yesterday focused on how the defendants’ racism allegedly manifested itself when Arbery was murdered — including that they did not try to help Arbery as he lay dying in the street. Tariro Mzezewa and Richard Fausset report for the New York Times.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack issued six further subpoenas yesterday. The subpoenas seek more information about the plan to have electors cast votes for former President Trump in states that were certified as having been won by President Biden. Tom Hamburger and Jacqueline Alemany report for the Washington Post.
Michael A. Roman and Gary Michael Brown, who served as the director and the deputy director of Election Day operations for Trump’s campaign, were amongst those subpoenaed yesterday. “The panel also summoned Douglas V. Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator; Laura Cox, the former chairwoman of Michigan’s Republican Party; Mark W. Finchem, an Arizona state legislator; and Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of Arizona’s Republican Party,” Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has resigned after weeks of criticism for his handling of anti-vaccine mandate protests in Ottawa. Protesters have occupied Ottawa’s center for 19 days, halting traffic and enraging residents. In a statement on Twitter, Sloly defended his policing record, adding that “since the onset of this demonstration, I have done everything possible to keep this city safe and put an end to this unprecedented and unforeseeable crisis.” BBC News reports.
The Canadian government has defended its decision to invoke unusual emergency powers to quell the protests that have paralyzed Ottawa. Canada’s Public Safety Minister called a small group behind the demonstrations a serious threat, saying that vaccine mandates and fatigue with the pandemic “is not what is driving this movement right now.” Rather, “what is driving this movement is a very small, organized group that is driven by an ideology to overthrow the government through whatever means they may wish to use,” Marco Mendicino said. Paul Vieira and Kim Mackrael report for the Wall Street Journal.
A Christian crowdfunding website used to gather funds for the “Freedom Convoy” trucker-led demonstration in Canada has been taken down after information about donors was leaked, possibly due to a hack. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – TROOPS AND DIPLOMACY
President Biden has said that the U.S. has not yet determined whether some Russian military units are moving back from the border of Ukraine and returning to their bases, despite the claims by senior Russian officials that some troops are returning to their garrisons. “Biden said that Russia had more than 150,000 troops around Ukraine, up significantly from some previous estimates of about 130,000, and noted that ‘an invasion remains distinctly possible,’” Shane Harris, Robyn Dixon, Rachel Pannett and Emily Rauhala report for the Washington Post.
Some Russian troops are moving forward closer to Ukraine’s border, including with medical supplies, and being put into firing positions, sources have said. The U.S. believes that Russia now has all the necessary pieces in place, including 150,000 troops in the region, to launch a swift and brutal invasion of Ukraine, the sources added. Putin had also told his military forces to be ready to go by Wednesday, Feb. 16, but it is still unclear whether he has made a decision to attack his neighbor, the sources told ABC News. Conor Finnegan reports for ABC News.
The Russian military is continuing to undertake activities that appear designed to prepare for an offensive and thwart any attempt by the United States and NATO to intervene, according to Western officials and analysts. Paul Sonne and Ellen Nakashima report for the Washington Post.
Ukrainians have expressed caution in response to recent moves that suggest that Moscow may be reducing the tensions. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter yesterday that: “if a real withdrawal follows these statements, we will believe in the beginning of a real de-escalation” Sarah Rainsford reports for BBC News.
U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has expressed concerns that a Russian invasion of Ukraine “could still happen.” Wallace said he did not think that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made the decision whether to attack Ukraine yet. BBC News reports.
Russia has sent a string of mixed messages on the Ukraine crisis. Putin yesterday during a press conference after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said: “there is nothing to comment on here. A decision was made to partially withdraw troops.” Putin added that Moscow was “ready to follow the negotiation track,” but that the implementation of Russian demands, including a halt to expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, are “an unconditional priority for us.” Ann M. Simmons, Yaroslav Trofimov and Catherine Lucey report for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden during his speech yesterday stressed that the U.S. is not looking for confrontation with Russia and was hoping for a diplomatic resolution. However, he reiterated that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. and allies would respond decisively. He also warned Americans that energy prices could be affected with the prospect of U.S. sanctions on Russia. Ann M. Simmons, Yaroslav Trofimov and Catherine Lucey report for the Wall Street Journal.
Defense ministers from NATO are taking part in a two-day meeting in Brussels. NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg told the media that NATO is willing to talk if Russia is willing to give diplomacy a chance. “We work hard for the best, a peaceful political solution, but we are also prepared for the worst that Russia once again invades Ukraine,” he said, adding that the Russian troop numbers on the border of Ukraine keep going “up and up and up.” BBC News reports.
Just Security has published an essay by Barry Posen on ‘Ukraine: Unleashing the Rhetorical Dogs of War’.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Multiple Ukrainian government websites, including the defense ministry’s website and banking systems, were temporarily inaccessible to users yesterday afternoon. It remains unclear who was behind the disruption and the overall intent. The outage was a result of a distributed denial-of-service attack. “Digital attackers targeted the organizations’ online services to prevent them from functioning properly, but the intrusion fell well short of any kind of massive cyberattack,” Jenna Mclaughlin reports for NPR.
Russian government hackers have likely broadly penetrated Ukrainian military, energy, and other critical computer networks, according to newly declassified U.S. intelligence. The hacks could allow the Russian government to collect intelligence and position themselves to disrupt Ukraine’s networks and systems should Russia launch a military assault, either to support military operations or to sow panic in an attempt to destabilize the country, according to a senior administration official. Ellen Nakashima and Alex Horton report for the Washington Post.
Biden took pains to ensure that his speech was also directed at Americans. While stressing that the U.S. would not send troops to Ukraine, Biden said that everything the U.S. stood for – freedom democracy and the right of sovereign nations to decide their destinies – would be risked by caving to Russia, arguing that American national security depended on resolute defense in Europe to prevent any Russian moves on U.S. allies beyond Ukraine. Stephen Collinson reports for CNN.
The Senate’s ambitions to sanction Russia have been plagued with flailing negotiations and repeated roadblocks, with the Senate instead this week releasing a symbolic bipartisan statement affirming Ukraine’s sovereignty as they prepare for a week-long recess. Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.
If Putin attacks, “Russia must be made to pay a severe price,” the Senator leaders of both parties wrote in a statement. “We are prepared to fully support the immediate imposition of strong, robust, and effective sanctions on Russia, as well as tough restrictions and controls on exports to Russia, and we will urge our allies and partners in Europe and around the world to join us.” Lisa Mascaro and Farnoush Amiri report for AP.
China has accused the U.S. of “playing up the threat of warfare and creating tension,” over the Ukraine crisis. “Such persistent hyping up and disinformation by some Western countries will create turbulence and uncertainty to the world full of challenges, and intensify distress and division,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson told reporters. Reuters reports.
The previous Honduran President, Olando Hernández, has been arrested on drug charges, following an arrest warrant and a U.S. request for Hernández’s extradition. Hernández is accused of having been involved in a drug-trafficking ring which included his younger brother, Tony Hernández, who last year was sentenced in the U.S. to life in prison. BBC News reports.
The U.S. extradition request presented to Honduras’s Supreme Court claims Hernández participated in a “violent drug-trafficking conspiracy” that transported 500 tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia to the U.S. via Honduras. Hernández allegedly received millions of dollars in bribes for facilitating the shipments and shielding traffickers from prosecution. Joan Suazo and Anatoly Kurmanaev report for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Al Shabaab militants attacked several police stations and security checkpoints in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu today, officials and the militants have said. Five people, two of them children, have been reported as killed in the attacks. Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar report for Reuters.
A new trial of Kremlin critic Alexie Navalny has begun inside the Russian maximum-security prison where he is held. Navalny, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence, is accused of fresh fraud charges which could see his prison time extended by more than a decade. Navalny denies the charges. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the new charges “dubious,” adding that Navalny and his associates are “targeted for their work to shine a light on official corruption,” and calling for the Russian authorities to release Navalny. BBC News reports.
The E.U.’s top court has ruled that the E.U. has the right to manage and withhold certain payments from member states that violate the rule of law. The case centers on Hungary and Poland, whose governments have been accused of overseeing a gradual decline in democratic standards in recent years. Both countries could stand to lose billions if the E.U. decides to make use of the rules approved by the court. Emily Rauhala, Rick Noack and Quentin Aries report for the Washington Post.
Amnesty International have accused fighters affiliated with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of committing atrocities including gang rape and assault in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. The Amnesty International report says that TPLF fighters “deliberately killed dozens of people, gang-raped dozens of women and girls — some as young as 14 — and looted private and public property in two areas of northern Ethiopia’s Amhara region” in late August and early September 2021. Bethlehem Feleke reports for CNN.
A Georgia federal judge has blocked the Air Force from retiring a service member who objected to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons. In a preliminary injunction issued yesterday, the judge ordered the Air Force to refrain from taking “any adverse action” against the unnamed Air Force officer on the basis of “this lawsuit or her request for religious accommodation, specifically including forcing her to retire.” Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 78.03 million people and has now killed over 925,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 415.76 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.83 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.