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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
Federal agents have seized the phone of John Eastman, a lawyer who advised former President Trump on key elements of the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The seizure, which was included in a court filing by Eastman yesterday, is the latest evidence that the Justice Department is stepping up its criminal investigation into the various strands of Trump’s efforts to remain in power. Prosecutors are also investigating former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark for charges that include conspiracy to obstruct the certification of the presidential election, a warrant issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General has indicated. Alan Feuer and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
The committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has abruptly scheduled a hearing for this afternoon to hear “recently obtained evidence” and take witness testimony. The announcement – and its sudden and secretive nature – has stirred a wave of speculation about a potentially explosive revelation. Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is expected to testify today before the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, sources familiar with the matter have revealed. Hutchinson has already been interviewed by the committee behind closed doors and video clips from her deposition have been featured by the panel during earlier hearings. However, her live testimony would mark a significant moment in the committee’s series of hearings as Hutchinson has long been considered one of its most consequential witnesses due to her proximity to Trump’s then-White House chief of staff. Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen and Annie Grayer report for CNN.
Today’s hearing is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST. Live coverage is provided by the January 6th Committee Media Center.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
At least 46 people were found dead yesterday in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, according to city officials. The people are believed to be migrants who were being transported to the U.S. in a smuggling operation, according to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It’s the highest number of fatalities ever in a suspected migrant smuggling operation in the U.S., said federal officials with knowledge of the incident. San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said his department transported 16 survivors to hospitals, four of whom were teenagers or young adults. Alicia A. Caldwell and Talal Ansari report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – ATTACK ON KREMENCHUK SHOPPING MALL
At least 18 people have been killed following a missile strike on the Amstory shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, according to this morning’s figures. 36 are also believed to be missing and 25 are in hospital. Authorities estimate there could have been anywhere between 200 and 1,000 people inside the shopping centre when it was targeted. Many managed to flee to a nearby bomb shelter but others remain trapped in the building, reports suggest. Rescue workers are continuing to search the rubble. BBC News reports.
Group of Seven leaders meeting in Germany called the attack on the shopping mall a “war crime” in a statement yesterday night. The leaders condemned Russia’s missile strike on the shopping centre in Kremenchuk, saying in a joint statement: “Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime.” The leaders have promised to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and have pledged to impose new sanctions on Moscow to limit its ability to import technologies for its arms industry. BBC News reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his call for the U.S. to name Russia a state sponsor of terrorism — a designation that would trigger significant penalties — after the Russian missile strike on the Kremenchuk shopping mall. Zelensky called the strike “one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history” in an address yesterday evening. Annabelle Timsit, Amy Cheng and Andrew Jeong report for the Washington Post.
Russia’s defense ministry has admitted responsibility for the missile strike on the shopping mall in Kremenchuk but said it had hit a military target and denied reports of civilian casualties. Russia claimed that it had hit a weapons depot in a factory with high-precision air-based missiles in a strike on U.S. and European munitions supplies for Ukrainian armed forces. “The detonation of the munitions for western weaponry in storage led to a fire in a non-functioning shopping centre next to the factory,” defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. Max Seddon reports for the Financial Times.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, a deputy Russian ambassador to the United Nations, previously suggested on Twitter that the explosion and fire at the shopping mall had been caused by the Ukrainians themselves. He described it as a “provocation” by Ukraine intended to keep attention on the country before an annual meeting of NATO countries in Madrid. Valerie Hopkins, Ivan Nechepurenko, Megan Specia and Dan Bilefsky report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER FIGHTING
Russian forces shelled central districts of the city of Kharkiv yesterday, hitting apartment buildings and a primary school and killing five people and wounding 22. All of those affected by the attack were “civilians of Kharkiv, who were walking on the streets, on playgrounds,” the regional governor Oleh Synehubov said in a Telegram post. Five children were among the injured, he added. Vitalii Hnidyi reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NATO SUMMIT
President Biden and other NATO heads of state and government will gather in Madrid today for a three-day summit focused on urgent support for Ukraine as well as the alliance’s longer-term strategy. The meeting comes a day after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the number of alliance forces kept at a high readiness level will increase sharply — to more than 300,000 troops from 40,000 — in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In Madrid, NATO leaders and officials are set to discuss a more responsive force model, debate plans to bolster NATO’s eastern flank and release a new strategy document, diplomats said. Allies are also expected to announce additional financial and military support for Ukraine. Emily Rauhala and Loveday Morris report for the Washington Post.
Turkey wants results not “empty words” from Sweden and Finland if it is to approve their bids for Nato membership, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid. The Turkish president said that Ankara would block the accession of the two Nordic nations if it felt they had offered no tangible commitments on combating the activities of Kurdish militias that Turkey views as terrorists. Erdoğan, whose nation has been a Nato member since 1952, is due to hold a four-way summit with the prime minister of Sweden and the president of Finland along with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg today. Laura Pitel reports for the Financial Times.
Any encroachment on the Crimea peninsula by a NATO member-state could amount to a declaration of war on Russia and lead to “World War Three,” Russia’s former president, Dmitry Medvedev, said yesterday. “For us, Crimea is a part of Russia. And that means forever. Any attempt to encroach on Crimea is a declaration of war against our country,” Medvedev told the news website Argumenty i Fakty. “And if this is done by a NATO member-state, this means conflict with the entire North Atlantic alliance; a World War Three. A complete catastrophe.” Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GROUP OF SEVEN SUMMIT
The Group of Seven (G7) will pledge to spend $5 billion this year to help ensure food security around the globe, in an effort to counter global food shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. An announcement about the commitment is expected to come today when the leaders of the G7 wealthy democracies issue their final statement after two days of meetings in the German Alps. The New York Times reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed yesterday to G7 leaders for more support from allies to push Russia out of newly conquered territories before winter. Zelensky told the leaders during a video address, that the harsh Ukrainian winter would make it more difficult for his troops to defend their positions and maintain supply lines to the front. Ukraine aims to push Russia back to the separation line before the February invasion, Zelensky said, according to officials present at the address. Tarini Parti, Bojan Pancevski and Alex Leary report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. conducted an airstrike in Syria yesterday that killed a suspected militant leader affiliated with al Qaeda, the U.S. military has announced. The attack, which was carried out in Syria’s Idlib province, targeted Abu Hamzah al Yemeni, whom the U.S. Central Command said was a senior leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated Hurras al-Din organization. The strike is notable because so few strikes targeting al Qaeda have been conducted recently. Gordon Lubold and Michael R. Gordon report for the Wall Street Journal.
Indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. will start today in Qatar’s capital, the Iranian foreign ministry has said. The meeting comes amid a push by the E.U. to break a months-long impasse in negotiation to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Negotiations stalled chiefly over Tehran’s insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list (FTO). Last week, one Iranian and one European official indicated that Iran had dropped its demand for the removal of the IRGC’s FTO sanctions, but two issues, including one on sanctions, remained to be resolved. Parisa Hafezi and Andrew Mills report for Reuters.
Just Security has published a piece by Brianna Rosen on the action the Biden Administration must take in order to walk Iran back from the nuclear brink.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Mohammed Zubair, an Indian journalist and prominent critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was arrested yesterday over posts he made on Twitter. Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checking site Alt News, was charged with violating two federal laws: “doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony” and “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class.” Suman Nalwa, a spokeswoman for the Delhi police, confirmed in a phone interview that the charges were based on Zubair’s Twitter posts, but would not comment on the content of the posts themselves. The arrest sparked condemnation from press freedom groups, with Steven Butler, the Asia program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, calling the arrest “another low for press freedom in India.” Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
COVID-19 has infected over 86.96 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 543.646 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.