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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.
Senate negotiators announced yesterday that they had struck a bipartisan deal on a narrow set of gun safety measures, a significant step towards ending a yearslong congressional impasse on the issue. The agreement, put forth by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats and endorsed by President Biden and top Democrats, includes enhanced background checks to give authorities time to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21 and a provision that would, for the first time, extend to dating partners a prohibition on domestic abusers having guns. Emily Cochrane and Annie Karni report for the New York Times.
Dozens of members of a white supremacist group were arrested on Saturday in Idaho before they could act on plans to riot at a local Pride event, according to local police. After receiving a tip from a concerned citizen, the police detained and charged 31 people who belonged to a far-right group known as Patriot Front. They are being charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanour, said Lee White, the chief of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, at a news conference. Daniel Walters reports for the New York Times.
Retired Marine Gen. John Allen resigned as president of the Brookings Institution yesterday amid a federal investigation into whether he lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of Qatar during the Trump administration. Allen’s resignation from Brookings, a prominent Washington think tank, comes after a court filing revealed last week showed that the FBI had seized Allen’s electronic communications. Jeremy Herb reports for CNN.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – PUBLIC HEARINGS
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack will hold its second public hearing today, expanding on the themes laid out in its initial session Thursday night. Committee leaders have indicated that the focus will be on former President Trump and the extent to which he attempted to remain in power despite all the evidence indicating that he had lost the election. Today’s session will begin at 10 am EST. Zach Montague reports for the New York Times.
Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien will be among the witnesses testifying today before the Jan. 6 committee, the panel announced Sunday. Stepien, who will testify under subpoena, is expected to be asked to detail what the campaign and the former president knew about his fictitious claims of widespread election fraud. Stepien is currently serving as an adviser to Harriet Hageman, a Republican endorsed by Trump who is mounting a primary challenge to Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the panel’s vice chairwoman, setting up a potentially adversarial dynamic for his questioning. Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK- OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) yesterday told ABC’s “This Week” that credible allegations of criminal activity on the part of Trump should be investigated by the Justice Department. “The rule of law news to apply equally to everyone, and there are certain actions, part of these different lines of effort to overturn the election, that I don’t see evidence the Justice Department is investigating,” he said, adding that he believes there is credible evidence of criminal activity by the former president. ABC News provides a transcript of the interview.
The day before the Jan. 6 attack, then-vice president Mike Pence’s chief counsel laid out in a memo that Pence would breaking federal law if he bowed to Trump’s demand to block or delay the counting of electoral votes. In the three-page document, attorney Greg Jacobs concluded that such a move by Pence would likely fail in court. The memo further warned that “in a best-case scenario in which the courts refused to get involved, the Vice President would likely find himself in an isolated standoff against both housed of Congress…with no neutral arbiter available to break the impasse.” Betsy Woodruff Swan and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed 29 Republican state lawmakers in Arizona — 27 more than previously known — to set aside Joe Biden’s popular vote victory and “choose” presidential electors, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post. The emails, sent just days after media organizations called the race for Biden in Arizona and nationwide, urged lawmakers to “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure” and claimed that the responsibility to choose electors was “yours and yours alone.” Emma Brown reports for the Washington Post.
The White House plans to announce a trip by President Biden to Saudi Arabia this week, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter. Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia next month as part of a broader trip to the region. At present, the agenda includes a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, the proposed meeting has reportedly been criticized by members of Congress, including Biden’s allies, due to concerns over Prince Mohammed’s human rights record. Vivian Salama reports for the Wall Street Journal.
China’s defense minister Gen Wei Fenghe said yesterday that the country is developing its nuclear arsenal – a move he said was appropriate given the state of international security. Gen Wei also warned that Beijing would fight to block Taiwanese independence. The comments follow last week’s meeting between Gen. Wei and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, with Gen. Wei criticising U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific as propelling confrontation in the region. Keith Zhai and Alastair Gale report for the Wall Street Journal.
The New York Times has gained access to previously unreleased National Archive photographs of the first prisoners to be brought to Guantanamo Bay. The images, which were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, were taken by military photographers to show senior leaders an intimate view of the offshore detention and interrogation operation in its early stages. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
Iran and Venezuela, oil producers grappling with crippling U.S. sanctions, signed a 20-year cooperation plan in Tehran on Saturday. The plan includes cooperation in the field of oil, petrochemicals, defense, agriculture, tourism, and culture. At the signing ceremony, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that the allies would continue to resist pressure from Washington. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russia is likely to seize control of the entire Luhansk region within a few weeks, a senior U.S. defense official has said. Such a move would leave Russia short of its war aims of capturing all of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, but still amounts to a partial win for Russian forces. Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said today that its missiles had destroyed a large quantity of weapons and military equipment in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, including some that had been sent by the U.S.. The ministry said high-precision air-based missiles had struck near the Udachne railway station, hitting equipment that had been delivered to Ukrainian forces. Reuters reports.
A rocket attack on the western Ukrainian city of Chortkiv has partly destroyed a military facility and injured 22 people, the governor of the Ternopil region said in a briefing yesterday. “All missiles were from the Black Sea. A military facility and civilian facilities were partially destroyed. There are no casualties but we have injured – 22 people were hospitalised,” Trush said, adding the injured included a 12-year-old child. Reuters reports.
Ukraine remains in control of the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, the region’s governor has said after a Russia-backed separatist claimed 300 to 400 Ukrainian fighters were also trapped there. “The information about the blockade of the Azot plant is a lie,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists, said on the Telegram messaging app. Reuters reports.
Hadai said yesterday evening that the last crossing over the Siverskyi Donets river was still standing after another bridge was destroyed earlier in the day. Today he said fighting continues to rage in Severodonetsk, where Ukrainian forces were defending building by building. Natalia Zinets and Maria Starkove report for Reuters.
Ukrainian cities have been hit by more than 2,600 Russian cruise missiles since the start of the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday. During his nightly address, he made an impassioned plea to the West for modern missile defense systems. “The supply of such systems was possible this year, last year and even earlier. Did we get them? No. Do we need them? Yes,” Zelensky said. “There have already been 2,606 affirmative answers to this question in the form of various Russian cruise missiles that have hit Ukrainian cities.” “These are lives that could have been saved; these are tragedies that could have been prevented if Ukraine had been listened to,” he added. María Paúl reports for the Washington Post.
Russia continues to seek to generate more combat units to deploy to Ukraine, according to a U.K. defense ministry intelligence update. In recent weeks, Russia has likely started preparing to deploy the third battalion from some combat formations – it will likely have to rely on new recruits or mobilised reservists to deploy these units to Ukraine, the update adds.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS
Russia has repeatedly used cluster munitions — a type of weapon that drops explosives indiscriminately on a wide area — in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, according to a new report by Amnesty International. “Russian forces have caused widespread death and destruction,” the group said, “by relentlessly bombarding” residential areas in the city, which is Ukraine’s second-largest. Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The leaders of France, Germany and Italy plan to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv this week, officials have said. The visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, is planned for Thursday and would be the first to Ukraine for the three leaders since the beginning of the war. Ian Lovett and Bojan Pancevski report for the Wall Street Journal.
Security concerns raised by Turkey in its opposition to Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership applications are legitimate, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said. “These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism, it’s about weapons exports,” Stoltenberg told a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. Stoltenberg also said Turkey was a key ally for the alliance due to its strategic location on the Black Sea between Europe and the Middle East, and cited the support it has provided to Ukraine. Reuters reports.
E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday her executive will “by the end of next week” finalise its opinion on whether Ukraine should be a candidate country to join the E.U.. The E.U. Commission is expected to recommend Ukraine’s candidacy to join the E.U. – but that is just a preliminary step; there are many more along the road. Notably, all 27 member states would need to agree on Ukraine becoming a candidate. France 24 reports.
The leader of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine said on Sunday there was no reason to pardon two British nationals who were sentenced to death last week after being captured while fighting for Ukraine. A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic on Thursday found Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner – and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun – guilty of “mercenary activities” seeking to overthrow the republic. However, the U.K. says Aslin and Pinner were regular soldiers and should be exempt under the Geneva Conventions from prosecution for participation in hostilities. Reuters report.
India and other Asian nations are becoming an increasingly vital source of oil revenues for Moscow despite strong pressure from the U.S. not to increase their purchases. India has guzzled nearly 60 million barrels of Russian oil in 2022 so far, compared with 12 million barrels in all of 2021, according to commodity data firm Kpler. Shipments to other Asian countries, like China, have also increased in recent months but to a lesser extent. Such sales are boosting Russian export revenues at a time when Washington and its allies are trying to limit financial flows supporting Moscow’s war effort. Krutika Pathi and Elaine Kurtenbach report for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his top deputies have pushed for a crackdown on officials who abuse their power and commit other “unsound and non-revolutionary acts,” state media has reported. Whilst it is not clear what acts this refers to, the possible state crackdowns could be an attempt to solidify Kim’s control of his people and get them to rally behind his leadership in the face of the domestic hardships, including the COVID-19 outbreak and economic difficulties. Hyung – Jin Kim reports for AP.
Regional authorities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo said Rwandan soldiers and artillery had supported attacks by the M23 rebel group on Sunday. The officer of the governor of North Kivu province also accused Rwanda of seeking to occupy the Congolese border town of Bunagana. Congo’s accusations are part of an escalating dispute between the neighbours that has revived old animosities. Rwanda denies backing the M23 offensive. Reuters reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 85.51 million people and has now killed over 1.01 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 535.316 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.31 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine rollout 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.