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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
During yesterday’s public hearing the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack focused on how Trump repeatedly tried to use the Justice Department to interfere in the election. When top Justice Department officials repeatedly told him that they had investigated and debunked his allegations of widespread election fraud, Trump said they need not find evidence. And when the officials refused to comply, Trump embraced a plan to remove the acting attorney general and install a loyalist, Jeffrey Clark, to do his bidding. “He pressured the Justice Department to act as an arm of his re-election campaign,” Committee chairperson Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said of Trump. “He hoped law enforcement officials would give the appearance of legitimacy to his lies, so he and his allies had some veneer of credibility when they told the country that the election was stolen,” he said. Luke Broadwater and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.
The Jan. 6 committee presented new evidence yesterday of Republican members of Congress seeking pre-emptive pardons from former-President Trump. Witness testimony from former White House aides portrayed members of Congress as concerned about potential exposure to prosecution in the wake of their support for Trump’s attempts to stay in power. Trump “had hinted at a blanket pardon for the Jan. 6 thing for anybody,” Trump’s former head of presidential personnel, Johnny McEntee, testified. Those who sought pardon included Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ). Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
2020 ELECTION PROBES
Federal investigators carried out a search on Wednesday at the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, in connection with the department’s criminal inquiry into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. It remained unclear exactly what the investigators may have been looking for. However, Clark was central to former- President Trump’s unsuccessful effort in late 2020 to cajole the nation’s top prosecutors into supporting his claims of election fraud, and the search suggests that the criminal investigation could be moving closer to Trump. Alan Feuer, Adam Goldman and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
Georgia investigators are scrutinizing Rudy Giuliani’s appearance before state lawmakers in 2020, where he peddled claims of voter fraud and encouraged legislators to appoint a new slate of presidential electors. The special-purpose grand jury – which has been investigating whether Trump or his allies violated the law in their efforts to flip the 2020 election results in Georgia – has heard testimony from at least four witnesses regarding Giuliani’s activities. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading the investigation, has sought evidence on potential crimes including solicitation of election fraud, making false statements to state and local government bodies, and conspiracy. Jason Morris and Sara Murray report for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Senate yesterday passed a bipartisan package of modest gun safety measures, with 15 Republicans joining Democrats to advance the bill. The resulting Bipartisan Safer Communities Act garnered support from all 50 members of the Democratic caucus and a cadre of dealmaking Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has opposed previous attempts to toughen gun laws after mass shootings. The legislation moves to the House, where it is expected to pass today. Mike DeBonis reports for the Washington Post.
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Americans have a broad right to arm themselves in public, striking down a New York law that placed strict limits on carrying guns outside the home. The Second Amendment, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the 6-to-3 majority, protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” States can continue to prohibit guns in some locations like schools and government buildings, Justice Thomas wrote, but the ruling left open where exactly such bans might be allowed. The decision is expected to spur a wave of lawsuits seeking to loosen existing state and federal restrictions and will force five of the most populous states — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey — to rewrite their laws. Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
Republican lawmakers and veterans’ groups are calling for an investigation and open congressional hearings into how the Biden administration conducted its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. The eight Republican Party lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation, which has jurisdiction over Afghanistan, have asked for “a thorough investigation into President Biden’s bungled withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country,” according to a letter obtained by NBC News, arguing that significant operational questions remain unanswered. Courtney Kube reports for NBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Ukraine has ordered its troops to withdraw from their remaining foothold in the city of Severodonetsk to avoid encirclement. This ends a battle that has lasted nearly two months and gives Russia a small but symbolically important victory in Eastern Ukraine. “It makes no sense to remain on positions that have been demolished over the months,” Serhiy Haidai, the head of the region’s military administration, said in a TV appearance earlier today. “The defenders have already received orders to pull back to new positions, new fortified areas, and to conduct full military activities and to inflict damage on the enemy from there,” he added, saying that staying put could have resulted in heavy losses. Yaroslav Trofimov reports for The Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
E.U. leaders agreed yesterday to make Ukraine an official candidate to join the bloc, opening the door to possible membership in the years to come. The decision was agreed to by E.U. leaders at a summit in Brussels and fulfills one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s biggest requests of European countries. E.U. leaders also made Moldova—which borders Ukraine and where Russian troops are present in its secessionist Transnistria region—an official candidate to join the bloc. However, despite being heralded by Zelenskyy as one of the most important decisions in Ukraine’s history, the offer is only the first step of a long and uncertain accession bid for Ukraine and Moldova that could take decades and has no guarantee of success. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukraine yesterday filed a case against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights to end “the mass and gross human rights violations” by Moscow’s forces during the war in Ukraine. The move is purely symbolic and has no chance of substantive success, given that on June 7 Russian parliament approved two bills ending the court’s jurisdiction in Russia. Reuters reports.
Moscow’s foreign ministry has blamed the U.S. for a Lithuanian ban on sanctioned goods crossing from the Russian mainland to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. “The so-called ‘collective West’, with the explicit instruction of the White House, imposed a ban on rail transit of a wide range of goods through the Kaliningrad region,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement published today. It said the move was part of a pattern of “increasingly hostile actions from the American side” towards Russia. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. will provide an additional $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including more long-range rocket systems, U.S. officials said yesterday. This latest package comes after Biden last week announced an infusion of $1 billion in weapons for Ukraine that includes anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets, howitzers and ammunition. Steve Holland and Idrees Ali report for Reuters.
Ukraine said yesterday that it had received U.S. supplies of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a powerful long-range weapon system that Kyiv hopes can help turn the tide on Russia’s invasion. “Thank you to my U.S. colleague and friend Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for these powerful tools! Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted of the HIMARS delivery. Reuters reports.
More than 71,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the U.S. since March, according to new data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Refugee advocates say that whilst the numbers are welcome news the Biden administration is not responsible for bringing in the bulk of those who have found their way to the U.S.. The DHS data suggests that most of those who have entered the U.S. so far came on visas they held prior to the war or by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and not through the Biden administration’s Uniting for Ukraine web portal that allows Americans to sponsor Ukrainians they know. Julia Ainsley reports for NBC News.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un approved new operational duties for frontline army units at a meeting with members of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission yesterday. North Korea hasn’t specified the new operational duties, but analysts say the country could be planning to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons targeting rival South Korea along their tense border. Kim Tong-Hyung reports for AP.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) named a new intelligence chief yesterday, following a series of suspicious deaths of military officers and scientists. Hossein Taeb, a cleric who headed the Guard’s intelligence wing for more than a decade, was succeeded by Gen. Mohammad Kazemi, according to a statement on the official IRGC news website. The IRGC didn’t provide a reason for the change, which comes after Iranian officials publicly accused Israel of being behind last month’s killing of a top Iranian military officer. Taeb’s removal also came after Israel said it had disrupted, with help from Turkish security forces, an alleged plot by Iran to attack Israelis in Istanbul last weekend. David S. Cloud and Aresu Eqbali report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suffered a blow to his authority after his party lost two parliamentary by-elections in a single night. Labour won the West Yorkshire seat of Wakefield, in northern England, with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7 percentage points from the Conservatives to Labour. Moments later, the Liberal Democrat won the Tiverton and Honiton by-election in Devon, western England, with a dramatic swing of almost 30 points. The results are significant — and deeply concerning for the ruling Conservative Party — for two reasons. The Tiverton and Honiton defeat means that many once-safe seats in southern and western England could be at risk in the next general election. The Wakefield result suggests Labour could take back many of the so-called Red Wall seats that swung to Johnson’s party in the 2019 election. Speaking during a visit to Rwanda, Johnson said the U.K. government needs to “listen to the results” of the by-election losses, which prompted the Conservative Party’s own chairman Oliver Dowden to resign from his role. Luke McGee and Jonny Hallam report for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 86.76 million people and has now killed over 1.02 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 542.183 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.33 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.