A single gunman opened fire inside a suburban Alabama church yesterday evening, killing two people and wounding a third at a small group meeting. A suspect has been detained Police Capt. Shane Ware said in an earlier news conference. Police have declined to identify the suspect or the victims, or provide further details on the attack, saying another briefing was planned for today. AP reports.
Negotiators drafting what would be the U.S. Senate’s first gun-control bill in a generation have failed to overcome sticking points before breaking for the weekend, putting the historic bipartisan deal in jeopardy. Negotiators said they were stuck on language for two provisions. One would provide federal grants to states to enforce red-flag laws that allow authorities to remove guns temporarily from people threatening violence. The other would close the “boyfriend loophole” that allows convicted domestic abusers to buy guns if they aren’t married to their partner. However, the lead Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D – CT) has said he doesn’t expect any elements of the framework to be abandoned. “I think we can work out all of these issues,” he said. Natalie Andrews, Lindsay Wise and Teresa Mettela report for the Wall Street Journal.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – PUBLIC HEARINGS
Then-President Trump continued pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to go along with a plan to overturn his election defeat even after he was told it was illegal, according to testimony laid out yesterday by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The committee played videotaped testimony in which Pence’s top White House lawyer, Greg Jacob, said Trump’s lawyer John Eastman had admitted in front of Trump two days before the riot that his plan to have Pence obstruct the electoral certification violated the law. Luke Broadwater and Michael S. Schmidt report for the New York Times.
A confidential witness who travelled to Washington with the Proud Boys, later told investigators the group would have killed Pence, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, if they got the chance, the committee revealed during its third public hearing yesterday. An angry mob with baseball bats and pepper spray chanting “hang Mike Pence” came within 40 feet of the Vice president, who was held in the bowels of the Capitol for 5 hours for his own safety. The hearing also revealed that Trump called Pence a “wimp” in the course of an abusive call on the morning of the attack according to testimony from Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and former White House aides. Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
The full transcript of the third hearing is available thanks to NPR and CQ.
JAN. 6 ATTACK – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The Justice Department (DOJ) yesterday accused the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack of a “failure” to share its 1,000 witness transcripts. DOJ officials said those documents would aid the prosecution of people who breached the Capitol, including leaders of the Proud Boys. “The Select Committee’s failure to grant the Department access to these transcripts complicates the Department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal conduct in relation to the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” the department wrote in a letter, signed by Criminal Division chief Kenneth Polite Jr. and National Security Division head Matthew Olsen, as well as the U.S. attorney for D.C., Matthew Graves. Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein report for POLITICO.
A New Mexico county commissioner, awaiting sentencing for his Jan. 6 conviction, said yesterday that he plans to defy a state Supreme Court order and will not vote to certify the results of a recent primary election. At a Monday meeting, New Mexico commissioners cited their concerns about Dominion voting machines in refusing to certify the results, a decision that is drawing attention and alarm from national voting rights advocates. “I’m not planning to move off my position,” Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin said in a telephone interview with CNN. “Why have a commission if we just get overridden by the court system?” Fredreka Schouten reports for CNN.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has asked Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for an interview, the panel’s chairman said yesterday. The invitation comes after investigators discovered information that refers to Thomas in communication they have obtained relating to one of Trump’s lawyers, John Eastman. In response to the reported invitation, Thomas told a conservative news site that she “can’t wait to clear up misconceptions,” suggesting that she would comply with a request to testify. Mary Clare Jalonick and Farnoush Amiri report for AP.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has released footage showing one of the individuals to whom Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) gave a tour on January 5 outside the building during the insurrection screaming threats about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The video released by the committee seems to challenge the findings of U.S. Capitol Police as detailed in a letter sent to Republican lawmakers this week, which said the department conducted a review of security footage from January 5 and did not observe any activities it deemed to be suspicious or consistent with a reconnaissance tour. Annie Grayer, Zachary Cohen and Ryan Nobles report for CNN.
China has launched its third and most advanced aircraft carrier from Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard, with a new launch system that experts say is fast catching up with the U.S.. Its catapult-assisted launch system is a major upgrade from the less advanced ski jump-style system used on the Liaoning and the Shandong, its two predecessors, according to an assessment by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. Nectar Gan, Brad Lendon report for CNN.
A pair of U.S. senators introduced a bill yesterday to significantly enhance support for Taiwan. The senators’ Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 threatens severe sanctions against China for any aggression against Taiwan, and would provide $4.5 billion in foreign military financing over the next four years, as well as designate Taiwan a “major non-NATO ally,” according to the text. The sponsors, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairperson Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said it would be the most comprehensive restructuring of U.S. policy toward Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 – the current bedrock of U.S. engagement with the island. Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle report for Reuters.
Israel secretly coordinates with the U.S. on many of the airstrikes it carries out in Syria, current and former U.S. officials have revealed. U.S. officials have said little about Israel’s bombing missions, which have been aimed at interrupting Tehran’s flow of advanced weapons to Lebanese Hezbollah and diminishing Iran’s military forces and proxies in Syria. However, behind the scenes, many of Israel’s missions have reportedly been reviewed in advance for approval by senior officials at U.S. Central Command and at the Pentagon, with the aim of ensuring that Israel’s bombing raids don’t interfere with the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State militants. Michael R. Gordon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials have been watching as Iran digs a vast tunnel network just south of the Natanz nuclear production site, in what they believe is Tehran’s biggest effort yet to construct new nuclear facilities. President Biden is expected to take his first trip to the Middle East as president next month, with the question of taking more extreme measures to stop Iran likely to be high on the agenda. David E. Sanger, Julian E. Barnes and Ronen Bergman report for the New York Times.
The U.S. embassy in Mali has issued an alert over a possible terror attack in the capital Bamako that could target key government facilities and public places. The latest advisory came days after 22 civilians were killed in Mali’s northern Menaka region by suspected militants. This is the third alert issued by the U.S embassy in Mali since March 2021. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
The Ukrainian navy has claimed that it struck a Russian boat carrying air defense systems to a strategic island in the Black Sea. In a statement on social media, the navy said that the boat was used to transport ammunition, weapons and personnel to Snake Island, which is vital for protecting sea lanes out of the key port of Odesa. It did not say how much damage was inflicted by the strike. AP reports.
Russia has “strategically lost” the war in Ukraine, the head of Britain’s armed forces has said, calling Moscow a “more diminished power” that had inadvertently strengthened its enemies even as it was forced to abandon its primary invasion goals. Adm. Tony Radakin said Russia had sacrificed 25 per cent of its ground power to gain only a “tiny amount of territory” and could no longer achieve its objective of control over most Ukrainian cities. Hari Raj reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. secretary of agriculture announced yesterday at the U.N. a three-year agriculture partnership between the U.S. and Ukraine to address global food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The partnership, in the form of a memorandum of understanding, was signed virtually earlier this week by the secretary, Tom Vilsack, and Ukraine’s minister of agriculture. Vilsack said the agreement was focused on providing technical assistance to Ukraine and helping the country rebuild its agriculture industry after the war ends. The New York Times reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The E.U. Commission is expected to offer its opinion today that Ukraine should be considered a candidate state. It will then be for the 27 E.U. member states to decide whether or not they agree with the Commission’s opinion. While most European nations are firmly behind Ukraine and have, to varying degrees, aided Zelensky in his war efforts, it’s far from certain that his wish will be granted. For political and procedural reasons, it is possible that the E.U. ultimately decides that now is not the right time. Even if they did agree with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s opinion that Ukraine should be considered for membership, it could take years, even decades, for it to become a reality. Luke McGee reports for CNN.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that the possible granting of E.U. candidate status to Ukraine was a result of Russia’s invasion. “Ukraine normally should not be a candidate” and the E.U. is “doing it because of the war and because we think it’s good,” Macron said during an interview following his visit to Kyiv. Part of joining the E.U. means abiding by the Copenhagen Criteria, which entails that a candidate state must have a functioning free-market, uphold European values, and have a functioning democracy. Ukraine is 122nd on the Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index out of 180, highlighting a main reason that the country would not usually be considered an EU candidate member. Joseph Ataman and Camille Knight report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
At least 1,348 civilians were killed during the battle of Mariupol, including 70 children, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said yesterday. However, the “actual death toll of hostilities on civilians is likely thousands higher” she added. The U.N. has assessed that up to 90% of residential buildings in Mariupol have been damaged or destroyed, as well as up to 60% of private houses. An estimated 350,000 people were forced to leave the city. Michelle Bachelet’s statement is available through the OHCHR Media Center.
A third American whom the State Department has identified as missing in action in Ukraine is a US Marine veteran, Grady Kurpasi, his wife has confirmed. He chose to volunteer alongside Ukrainians in Ukraine but initially did not envision himself fighting on the front lines of the war, a family friend of Kurpasi has said. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the department was aware of the reports and was in contact with the family. Ellie Kaufman, Michael Conte and Jennifer Hansler report for CNN.
Despite the majority of Russians telling pollsters they support the ‘special military operation,’ in Ukraine elements of the population are beginning to show scepticism about the war, according to a U.K. Ministry of Defense intelligence update. The “Freedom for Russia Legion,” recruited from Russians, has almost certainly deployed in combat alongside the Ukrainian military. Scepticism is likely to be particularly strong amongst Russia’s business elite and oligarch community, with migration applications suggesting that 15,000 Russian millionaires are likely already attempting to leave the country.
Dutch authorities say they have thwarted an attempt by a Russian spy to gain access to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by posing as an intern. According to the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), a suspected operative of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service had posed as a 33-year-old man from Brazil, and traveled to the Netherlands from Brazil in April. He had successfully applied to be an intern at the ICC in The Hague and was traveling to the Netherlands to commence his internship, AIVD said Thursday in a news release. Upon arrival in the Netherlands, he was deemed a “potentially very high” threat and refused entry, then sent back to Brazil, where he is now detained on 15 criminal charges. Benjamin Brown and Jorge Engels report for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians and wounded eight others during a military operation in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin, the Palestinian Health Ministry has said. The Israeli military said that it traded fire with militants during raids on two separate locations, but did not say whether any of the militants were killed. AP reports.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S. has been approved by the U.K.’s Home Secretary Priti Patel. Assange has 14 days to appeal the decision, the Home Office said. It said the courts found that extradition would not be “incompatible with his human rights” and that while in the US “he will be treated appropriately”. BBC News reports.
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.