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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 – PUBLIC HEARINGS
Retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig, a Republican who is testifying at today’s Jan. 6 committee hearing, will provide a sharp condemnation of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, according to a written statement that he intends to submit to the committee’s record. The statement accuses Trump and his allies of instigating a war on democracy “so that he could cling to power,” and describes the events of Jan.6 as part of a “well-developed plan.” Luttig’s role pushing back against Trump’s efforts to subvert the election is particularly noteworthy due to his stature as a judge in Republican circles: John Eastman, a lawyer who played a key role in efforts to overturn the election results, and Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who voted against certifying the election, are both former clerks of Luttig’s. Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart report for CNN.
The committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has obtained email correspondence between Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Eastman. The emails show that Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known, individuals involved in the committee’s investigation have said, adding that committee members are now discussing whether to spend time during their public hearings exploring Thomas’s role in the attempt to overturn the election. Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Emma Brown report for the Washington Post.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Federal prosecutors yesterday filed a document allegedly used by the leader of the Proud Boys, laying out a plan to occupy Capitol buildings on Jan. 6 2021. The document, titled “1776 Returns” details a plan to use covert operators to let “patriots” inside government offices in an apparent effort to force a new election. “These are OUR buildings, they are just renting space,” the document reads, “we must show our politicians We the People are in charge.” Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the Proud Boys, and four other members were indicted on seditious conspiracy charges this month. Tarrio has twice been ordered detained until trial. Ryan J. Reily reports for NBC News.
A federal judge yesterday declined to dismiss contempt of Congress charges against former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon for refusal to answer questions from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols issued his ruling immediately after hearing courtroom arguments from federal prosecutors and Bannon’s lawyers. The move clears the way for Bannon’s trial to start on July 18, but one member of Bannon’s team said he might seek to have it delayed. Pete Williams reports for NBC News.
A Delaware man who flew a Confederate battle flag inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was convicted yesterday alongside his son. The two men, Kevin and Hunter Seefried were found guilty by a federal judge of obstructing the certification of the 2020 presidential vote. They both face a possible sentence of 20 years in prison. However, most of those convicted for their role in the Jan. 6 attack have received far shorter sentences. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an appeal from several states led by Republicans that had sought to step in to defend a Trump-era immigration policy that the Biden administration has abandoned. The Trump-era policy at issue in the case revised the “public charge” rule, which allows officials to deny permanent legal status, also known as a green card, to immigrants who are likely to need public assistance. The court’s decision was one sentence long and said only that the states’ petition seeking review was “dismissed as improvidently granted.” However, in a concurring opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr, said the case had presented “a host of important questions,” which he suggested may be resolved by the court in another context. Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
Federal prosecutors yesterday brought hate-crimes charges against the man accused of killing 10 people in a racist massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. The charges come as General Merrick Garland traveled to meet with the families of those killed and survivors of the attack. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A new White House task force aimed at combating online harassment and abuse will convene for its first meeting today. The taskforce, which is being launched by Vice President Harris, brings together officials across the administration to address growing concerns around online hate and the connection to gender-based violence. Rebecca Klar reports for The Hill.
U.S.-led coalition forces have detained a senior Islamic State leader in Syria, according to a statement by Operation Inherent Resolve. “Coalition forces detained a senior Daesh leader during an operation in Syria June 16,” the statement says, adding that “the detained individual was assessed to be an experienced bomb maker and facilitator who became one of the group’s top leaders in Syria.” Zach Schonfeld reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russia has concentrated its main strike forces in the north of the Luhansk region and is trying to attack simultaneously in nine directions, the head of Ukraine’s military said yesterday. “The fierce struggle for the Luhansk region continues,” Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said in an online message. The Russians were using aircraft, rocket-propelled grenades, and artillery, he added. Reuters reports.
Thousands of civilians are trapped in the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk with essential supplies running out, the U.N has warned. “The lack of water and sanitation is a big worry. It’s a huge concern for us because people cannot survive for long without water,” spokesperson for the U.N.’s Humanitarian Affairs office Saviano Abreu said. The U.N. is hoping to provide aid to those trapped in the city, but continued fighting means its agencies cannot get access or assurances to safely reach the civilians still there, including women, children and the elderly. Emily McGarvey and Leo Sands report for BBC News.
The battle for control of eastern Ukraine is increasingly devolving into combat between smaller groups of troops, according to an intelligence update by the U.K. Ministry of Defense. Russian forces in the Donbas region are “highly likely operating in increasingly ad hoc and severely undermanned groupings” — perhaps with as few as 30 soldiers in some battalion groups, the update says.
Western intelligence and military officials believe Russia’s war in Ukraine is in a critical stage that could determine the long-term outcome of the conflict, according to multiple sources familiar with US and other Western intelligence. “I think that you’re about to get to the point where one side or the other will be successful,” said a senior NATO official. “Either the Russians will reach Slovyansk and Kramatorsk or the Ukrainians will stop them here. And if the Ukrainians are able to hold the line here, in the face of this number of forces, that will matter.” This pivotal moment could also force more tough decisions for Western governments, which have up until now offered support to Ukraine at a steadily increasing cost to their own economies and national stockpiles of weapons. Katie Bo Lillis, Barbara Starr, Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden yesterday announced an additional $1 billion in weapons and aid for Ukraine. The aid package to Ukraine, detailed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, includes more long-range artillery, anti-ship missile launchers, more ammunition for howitzers and for a sophisticated American rocket system on which Ukrainians are currently being trained. Overall, the U.S. has now committed about $5.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Steven Erlander, Michael D. Shear and Dan Bilefsky report for the New York Times.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended ongoing weapons and security aid to Ukraine by saying that “the numbers clearly favor the Russians” in the war’s current state. Milley, speaking to reporters from Brussels, said the United States was working to give “as much capability as fast as we can … to ensure that Ukraine can be successful on the battlefield. Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
The U.S. government has pushed new, increased funding into technology companies since the start of the Ukraine conflict to help Russians sidestep censors and access Western media. The financing effort is focused on three firms that build Virtual Private Networks (VPN) – nthLink, Psiphon and Lantern – and is designed to support a recent surge in their Russian users, sources said. James Pearson and Cristopher Bing report for Reuters.
Federal agents have begun questioning U.S. technology companies on how their computer chips ended up in Russian military equipment recovered in Ukraine. Commerce Department agents who enforce export controls are conducting the inquiries together with the FBI, paying joint visits to companies to ask about Western chips and components found in Russian radar systems, drones, tanks, ground-control equipment and littoral ships, according to people familiar with the matter. “Our goal is to actually try and track that back, all the way back to the U.S. supplier” to determine “how did it find its way into that weapons system,” one Commerce official said of the probes. Jeanne Whalen reports for the Washington Post.
Russian people and companies are using entities in Georgia to bypass Western sanctions, a group of Ukrainian lawmakers said yesterday, urging the U.S. to take action. Lawmaker David Arakhamia, Ukraine’s chief negotiator with Russia, said a Ukrainian delegation visiting Washington was expected to have meetings at the U.S. Congress, State Department and the Treasury over the issue and other topics. Humeyra Pamuk reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The leaders of France, Germany and Italy traveled to Ukraine today to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the first time since Russia’s invasion began. The visit comes as questions mount over European support for Ukraine and as Zelenskyy calls for heavier weapons to offset Moscow’s artillery advantage. The New York Times reports.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has re-emphasized his support for Moscow in his second phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine. “China is willing to continue mutual support with Russia on issues related to core interests and major concerns such as sovereignty and security,” Xi said during the call, according to China’s Foreign Ministry. Lingling Wei and Sha Hua report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
A food security crisis stoked by the Ukraine war is set to push more people to flee their homes in poorer countries, increasing already record-high levels of global displacement. A report released yesterday by the U.N. refugee agency (U.N.H.C.R) revealed that some 89.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, abuse and violence at the end of 2021. “If you have a food crisis on top of everything I have described – war, human rights, climate – it will just accelerate the trends I’ve described in this report,” the head of the U.N.H.C.R Filippo Grandi told reporters. Emma Farge reports for Reuters.
Two U.S. veterans who volunteered to fight in Ukraine have gone missing, their families said yesterday. One of the men is Alex Drueke, 39, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, his family said in a statement. The other is Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, a former Marine. The U.S. State Department said that it was “aware of unconfirmed reports of two U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine” and was “closely monitoring the situation.” The New York Times reports.
Ukrainian citizens have reported being punched and electrocute before being allowed the leave Mariupol. Yuriy Belousov, who leads the Department of War at the Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office, said his team had received allegations of torture and even killings during filtration. “[It seems to be] a Russian policy which was designed in advance, and pretty well prepared,” he told the BBC. “It’s definitely not just a single case or [something] done by a local military guy.” Hugo Bachega reports for BBC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 85.94 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 537.438 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.