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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.
The House is scheduled to vote on a bill today that seeks to expand security protections for family members of Supreme Court justices. The bill, dubbed the Supreme Court Police Parity Act, passed in the Senate by unanimous consent last month and would provide security protections for immediate family members of Supreme Court justices and “any officer” who works for the bench if the court marshal “determines such protection is necessary.” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Ohio school districts could begin arming employees as soon as this fall under a bill signed into law yesterday by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. The law, as enacted, requires up to 24 hours of training before an employee can go armed, and up to eight hours of annual training. The new law “is giving schools an option, based on their particular circumstances, to make the best decision they can make with the best information they have,” DeWine said. AP reports.
An Iraqi prisoner who commanded insurgents during the U.S. war in Afghanistan pleaded guilty yesterday to war crimes charges related to lethal attacks on allied soldiers in 2003 and 2004. Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, now in his 60s, pleaded guilty to the traditional war crimes of attacking protected property and of treachery and conspiracy connected to insurgent bombings that killed at least three allied troops. Hadi could be sentenced to 10 years in prison, much of it to be served in the custody of another country, under a plea agreement that has yet to be made public. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – PUBLIC HEARINGS
Donald Trump was repeatedly told by Justice Department officials and members of his inner circle that he hadn’t won the 2020 election but continued to pursue his false claims of victory, according to testimony shown yesterday at a hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Former Attorney General William Barr described to the committee a series of meetings with the former president after the election in which he argued against claims of widespread voter fraud, according to videotaped depositions aired Monday. “I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has become detached from reality,” Barr told the committee. Trump seemed to have no interest in the actual facts, the former attorney general said. “My opinion then, and my opinion now, is that the election was not stolen by fraud,” Barr added. Scott Patterson and Siobhan Hughes report for the Wall Street Journal.
Former President Trump has issued a 12-page rebuttal to testimony and evidence presented by the committee, accusing Democrats of seeking to distract from domestic issues facing the country. “Seventeen months after the events of January 6th, Democrats are unable to offer solutions,” Trump said in a statement released through his Save America PAC. “They are desperate to change the narrative of a failing nation, without even making mention of the havoc and death caused by the Radical Left just months earlier. Make no mistake, they control the government. They own this disaster. They are hoping that these hearings will somehow alter their failing prospects.” Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
A Washington security official who warned hundreds of law enforcement officials that the electoral college certification could turn violent is expected to appear at the next Jan. 6 public hearing on June 22. The committee will likely ask Dan Harvin, who ran D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency on the day of the attack, about the public signs that horror was brewing –– specifically, how online discussions featured increasingly violent language and more participants in the weeks before the attack. POLITICO reports.
The majority of Americans said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) should bring legal action against officials who mislead the public about the outcome of an election, according to a new poll from Morning Consult and Politico. The poll showed that 42 per cent of respondents “definitely” thought the DOJ should bring legal action against elected officials involved in misleading Americans, and 21 per cent thought legal action should “probably” happen. The survey also indicated that 52 per cent of respondents thought that an elected official’s attempt to overturn election results was “definitely” a crime. Another 17 per cent said it was “probably” a crime. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6 ATTACK- OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
A tour of parts of the Capitol complex given by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) the day before the Jan. 6 attack appears to have been innocuous, the Capitol Police said yesterday. “We train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance, and we do not consider any of the activities we observed to be suspicious,” J. Thomas Manger, the chief of the Capitol Police, wrote in a letter about the tour. Leaders of the committee investigating the attack had asked Loudermilk last month to submit to questioning about the tour, saying they were looking into whether rioters had conducted reconnaissance of the building before the rampage. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Philadelphia prosecutors asked a judge yesterday to hold Vets for Trump founder Joshua Macias in contempt of court over a video that shows him meeting with leaders of two far-right extremist groups in Washington D.C. the day before the Jan. 6 attack. Macias was arrested on weapons and election law charges in November 2020 and was out on bail on Jan. 6. He hasn’t been charged in relation to the Jan. 6 attack, but Philadelphia prosecutors say his presence at the meeting of the extremist leaders the day before indicates he had a much more prominent role in the insurrection than they had previously realized. Clausi Lauer reports for AP.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, yesterday urged U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to continue “good faith” talks with the E.U. amidst the latest post-Brexit row over Northern Ireland. During the call with Truss, Blinken reiterated the need to reach a solution that preserves the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The message comes after Truss’ department unveiled a bill in the House of Commons which, if passed, would allow British ministers to switch off parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, a crucial part of the Brexit divorce deal which London contends is causing political and trade disruption in Northern Ireland. Matt Honeycombe-Foster, Shawn Pogatchnik and Nahal Toosi report for POLITICO.
A bipartisan set of House and Senate lawmakers is proposing a new compromise for government screening of American investments in China as part of a pending economic competitiveness bill aimed at confronting Beijing. The discussion draft would set up a new federal oversight panel with the authority to review and potentially deny new American investments in China or other adversarial nations over national security concerns. It would also force American investors and firms to disclose new investments in certain Chinese sectors, such as semiconductors, batteries and pharmaceuticals. Gavin Bade reports for POLITICO.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spent more than four hours yesterday meeting with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, according to a senior administration official. At the meeting in Luxembourg, Sullivan reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to the “one China” policy as well as concerns about China’s “coercive and aggressive actions” across the Taiwan Strait, the official said. Sullivan also reportedly warned China against assisting Russia in its war in Ukraine. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway and Taiwan’s government supports U.S. warships transiting it, Taiwan’s foreign ministry has said, rebuffing claims from China to exercise sovereignty over the strategic passage. “The Taiwan Strait is international waters, and the waters outside our territorial waters are subject to the ‘freedom of the high seas’ principle of international law,” Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told reporters, in response to China’s assertion that it “has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait.” Reuters reports.
Trevor Reed, the former Marine released from a Russian prison in April after more than two years, filed a petition to the U.N. yesterday to issue a statement acknowledging that he was wrongly imprisoned and asking Russia to pay him reparations. The petition requests that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issue a “Formal Opinion” stating that Reed’s imprisonment was “arbitrary and unlawful and contrary to fundamental principles of international law” and declaring that Russia is obligated to compensate Reed for these violations. Chloe Folmar reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russian forces have destroyed the last bridge linking Severodonetsk to a Ukrainian-held city on the other side of the river, cutting off all routes for evacuating citizens. “The situation in Severodonetsk is extremely aggravated – the Russians are destroying high-rise buildings,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said in a post on Telegram. Oleksandr Kozhukhar reports for Reuters.
Ukraine said today that its forces were still holding out inside Severodonetsk and trying to evacuate civilians after Russia destroyed the last bridge to the city. “The situation is very difficult but there is communication with the city” despite the last bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river having been destroyed, said the Ukrainian mayor of Severodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk. “Russian troops are trying to storm the city, but the military is holding firm.” Natalia Zinets reports for Reuters.
Russia struck an artillery weapons depot with Kalibr cruise missiles in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region, the RIA news agency reported today, citing the Russian defense ministry. Russian air defense forces shot down a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet and an Mi-24 helicopter, the TASS news agency reported, citing the ministry. Reuters reports.
Russian forces appear to have made small advances in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, their first in several weeks, according to the U.K. defense ministry’s latest intelligence update. The update also highlights a recent Russian announcement forecasting a sharp increase in defense spending, which could be as high as 20%.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to show full-throated support for Kyiv, charging him with being too concerned about repercussions from Moscow. Zelenskyy’s comments, made in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF, come amid speculation that Scholz could make his first trip to Kyiv since the start of the war on Thursday. “We need from Chancellor Scholz the certainty that Germany supports Ukraine,” he said. “He and his government must decide: there can’t be a trade-off between Ukraine and relations with Russia.” Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The decline in nuclear weapon stockpiles seen since the Cold War is most likely coming to an end, according to a new report from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute. Whilst there have been “several landmarks” in nuclear diplomacy over the past year, the number of nuclear weapons is expected to grow in the next 10 years, the report says, noting that the conflict in Ukraine has played a role in the heightened risk. Brittany Shammas and Sammy Westfall report for the Washington Post.
Former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov described President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as “a criminal war” — one that Ukraine must win or the “Baltic states will be next.” Kasyanov, who served as prime minister from 2000 to 2004 and is now one of the Kremlin’s most prominent critics, told Agence France-Press that he believes that the conflict could last up to two years. AFP reports.
The Kremlin has said that it was “sure” that Russian-backed separatist leaders in the Donbas would be willing to listen to an appeal from the U.K. over the fate of two Britons sentenced to death for fighting for Ukraine. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call that London had not contacted Moscow about the issue. U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said earlier that the best route to securing the release of the prisoners was “through the Ukrainians.” Reuters reports.
U.S. State Department officials met yesterday with Brittney Griner’s W.N.B.A team, the Phoenix Mercury, to discuss the sportsperson’s months-long detention in Russia and the efforts to secure her release. The State Department confirmed the meeting, which involved officials from its specialized office that advocates for hostages and wrongfully detained Americans. “Knowing the State Department at the highest level, from U.S President Joe Biden to the team that is working on bringing back all Americans who are wrongfully detained, gives us a lot of confidence that they’re working on it,” Mercury star Dianna Taurasi said after the meeting. AP reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has announced that she will not be seeking a second term, following a barrage of criticism from Western officials and activists over her handling of alleged rights violations in China. Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday, Bachelet said the council’s current session, would be the last one she briefs as U.N. high commissioner for human rights, a role she will relinquish when her four-year stint ends at the end of August. Chun Han Wong reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Iran suspects Israel of being behind the recent deaths of two Iranian scientists who appear to have died by poisoning, according to an Iranian official and two other people with ties to the government. If Iran’s suspicions about the deaths are confirmed, these would be the latest killings in a shadow war that is reaching new intensity as Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons capability. Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman reports for the New York Times.
A Mexican political advisor has been killed by a lynch mob after child kidnapping accusations were spread on messaging groups, authorities say. Daniel Picazo, 31, was visiting his grandfather’s house in the town of Papatlazolco when rumours began to spread on local WhatsApp group chats that he had been involved in the kidnapping of a child. According to local media, a mob cornered and attacked Picazo and his two companions, before dragging him to a field and setting him on fire. BBC News reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 85.63 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 535.940 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.