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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
Testifying before the Jan. 6 committee yesterday, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, told of how former President Trump, knowing his supporters were armed and threatening violence, urged them to march to the Capitol. Hutchinson, a former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, also testified that she was told that Trump wanted to be driven to the Capitol to join his supporters and wrestled for the steering wheel with the Secret Service when his order was refused. Scott Patterson, Siobhan Hughes and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. Secret Service has said that they will respond on the record to the Jan. 6 committee regarding the allegations made by Hutchinson during yesterday’s hearing. Robert Engel, the U.S. Secret Service’s special agent in charge on Jan. 6, and the driver from whom Trump was alleged to have wrestled the steering wheel are both prepared to testify under oath that neither was physically attacked or assaulted by Trump, a source close to the Secret Service has confirmed. They are also willing to testify that the former president never lunged for the steering wheel of the vehicle. The Secret Service officials do not, however, dispute that Trump was irate or that he demanded to be taken to the Capitol. Nicole Sganga and Victoria Albert report for CBS News.
The Jan. 6 committee expressed concerns yesterday that allies of Trump are trying to intimidate witnesses. “Most people know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns. We will be discussing these issues as a committee and carefully considering our next steps,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), said at the conclusion of yesterday’s hearing. Cheney said the panel discovered at least two examples of potential witness intimidation. Scott Wong reports for NBC News.
The attorney for Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has asked the Jan. 6 committee to provide further justification for why her testimony is necessary. In a letter sent to the committee yesterday, Thomas’s attorney Mark Paoletta said that whilst Thomas was willing to testify to clear her name, “based on my understanding of the facts the Committee has in its possession, I do not believe there is currently a sufficient basis to speak with Mrs. Thomas.” Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Defense Department facilities will continue to perform some abortions in states that ban the procedure, the Pentagon announced yesterday. The memo from Gilbert Cisneros, the defense undersecretary for personnel, is an attempt to give troops the same benefits regardless of where they are stationed, now that 13 states have moved to ban abortion after Friday’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. “The Supreme Court’s decision does not prohibit the department from continuing to perform covered abortions, consistent with federal law,” the memo says. “There will be no interruption to this care.” Jacqueline Feldscher reports for Defense One.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NATO SUMMIT
NATO member Turkey has agreed to support Sweden and Finland’s membership of the alliance. After talks during the NATO summit in Madrid, Turkish President Tayop Erdogan yesterday agreed with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts on a series of security measures to allow the two Nordic countries to progress in their bid. “In light of the progress we have made, [Turkey] has agreed to support Finland and Sweden” in their membership bids, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in announcing the deal. All other members of the 30-country alliance had previously endorsed the two countries bid to join NATO. Daniel Michaels and Jared Malsin report for Wall Street Journal.
NATO allies will continue to supply Ukraine with weapons in its war against Russia for as long as necessary, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said earlier today. “It is good that the countries that are gathered here but many others, too, make their contributions so Ukraine can defend itself – by providing financial means, humanitarian aid but also by providing the weapons that Ukraine urgently needs,” Scholz told reporters as he arrived for the second day of the NATO summit. Reuters reports.
Russia’s space agency has published the coordinates of Western defence headquarters including the U.S. Pentagon and the venue of the NATO summit. Speaking to the Russian RIA Novosti news agency, Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, said that Western satellite operators were working for Russia’s enemy – Ukraine. Reuters reports.
Just Security has published a piece by Michèle Flournoy and Anshu Roy titled, “NATO Must Tackle Digital Authoritarianism.”
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. will enhance its force posture in Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden said yesterday. The new U.S. military deployments will include a permanent headquarters for the U.S. 5th Army Corps in Poland – a move that Russian President Vladimir Putin has long resisted – as well as additional rotational combat brigades to Romania; enhanced rotational deployments to the Baltic region; increasing the number of destroyers stationed at Rota, Spain, from four to six; and deploying two additional F-35 squadrons to the United Kingdom. Ashley Parker and Emily Rauhala report for the Washington Post.
The Pentagon’s watchdog has announced it will look into the extent to which the Defense Department shares intelligence with European partners in support of Ukraine. The goal of the evaluation is to determine the degree to which the U.S. military “developed, planned, and executed cross-domain intelligence sharing” with its European partners, according to a memo from the Defense Department’s inspector general. The watchdog will look at U.S. efforts, particularly at U.S. European Command (Eucom) headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and at Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, FL. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE- OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russia-installed officials in Ukraine’s Kherson region said their security forces had detained Kherson city mayor Ihor Kolykhayev yesterday. Russia officials cited the mayor’s refusal to follow orders as the reason for his detentions, whilst a Kherson local official said he was abducted. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Negotiations to revive the Iranian 2015 nuclear agreement resumed today in Qatar’s capital. The talks, which are being mediated by European Union diplomats since Iran refuses to meet directly with the U.S., are the first since negotiations broke down in mid-March. At the crux of the remaining issues is whether Iran sets aside, for now, its demand that Washington lifts U.S. terrorism sanctions imposed on Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps by the Trump administration. However, there is no certainty Iran will agree to that, Western diplomats say, and even if it does, there is no agreement on what Iran would get in exchange. Laurence Norman and Benoit Faucon report for the Wall Street Journal.
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.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – COLOMBIA TRUTH COMMISSION
Yesterday a Colombian government-appointed truth commission released its report examining Colombia’s 58-year civil war. The report, which is the most comprehensive examination yet of the country’s internal conflict, was highly critical of the security model that dominated the country for decades, saying that it treated much of the population as internal enemies. It also delivered a sharp rebuke of U.S. policy in Colombia, saying that mounting a war against drug trafficking had disastrous social and environmental effects. The New York Times reports.
Washington believed for years that the Colombian military was behind a wave of extrajudicial killings but still continued to deepen its relationship with the Colombian armed forces, newly released documents show. The CIA had evidence that the Colombian military had provided a target list to paramilitaries who killed 20 banana plantation workers in a high-profile massacre, the documents show, but went on to send billions of dollars in aid to the Colombian government. The New York Times reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The murder of a Hindu man in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan has sparked religious tensions in the area, with the government suspending internet services and banning large gatherings to combat potential unrest. The victim, a tailor named Kanhaiya Lal, was killed in the Udaipur district by two Muslim men, who filmed the act and posted it online. They claimed the act was in retaliation for the victim’s support for controversial remarks made by a politician on the Prophet Muhammad. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has appealed to people to stay calm. The federal government has asked the National Investigative Agency – India’s top anti-terrorism agency – to investigate the incident. BBC News reports.
Philippines authorities have ordered the shutdown of an investigative news site founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa. The news site, called Rappler, is one of the few Philippines media outlets critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government. The regulator’s ruling comes just before Duterte leaves office and is succeeded by his ally Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who won the election in May. Rappler said it wouldn’t be closing and would challenge the order in court. Howard Johnson and Frances Mao report for BBC News.
The verdict in the trial of Salah Abdeslam, the lone survivor of the Islamic State extremist team that attacked Paris in 2015, will be handed down today. Abdeslam faces up to life in prison without parole on murder and other counts, the toughest sentence possible under France’s justice system. The historic trial in Paris of 20 men suspected of critical roles in the Islamic State massacres that killed 130 people on Nov. 13, 2015, addressed the violence in the Bataclan theater, Paris cafes and the national stadium — France’s deadliest peacetime attack. Nicolas Vaux-Montagny and Barbara Surk reports for AP.
A former concentration camp guard was convicted in Germany yesterday of being an accessory to more than 3,500 murders. The 101-year-old man, identified only as Josef S, worked as an SS guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, north of Berlin, from 1942 to 1945. He was sentenced to five years in prison, although given his age it is not clear whether he will ever serve time. Christopher F. Schuetze reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 87.22 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 545.530million 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.