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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 & 2020 ELECTION PROBES
The Justice Department has asked the Jan. 6 committee to turn over evidence it has gathered regarding the plot by former President Trump and his allies to put forward false slates of pro-Trump electors. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) disclosed the request to reporters on Capitol Hill yesterday, and a person familiar with the panel’s work said discussions with the Justice Department about the false elector scheme were ongoing. Thompson also said the Justice Department’s investigation into “fraudulent electors” was the only specific topic the agency had broached with the committee, suggesting that the department is sharpening its focus on that aspect of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff who was talking to the Jan. 6 committee, two sources familiar with the matter have revealed. The call was made after former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified publicly to the committee. The White House staffer was in a position to corroborate part of what Hutchinson had said under oath, according to the sources. The support staffer, who was not someone who routinely communicated with Trump, declined to answer or respond to Trump’s call and instead alerted their lawyer. Ryan Nobles, Dana Bash, Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
Whilst the Jan. 6 committee is “concerned” by Trump’s alleged phone call to a witness it will be up to the Justice Department to determine whether this broke the law, Thompson said yesterday. “You know, we are concerned obviously about the witness. And we’re not going to put that witness in unnecessary jeopardy,” Thompson told reporters, a day after the panel first revealed the alleged call to an unidentified witness. When asked if he thought the Trump call had been an attempt to intimidate a witness, he said he considered the attempted contact “highly unusual. Dareh Gregorian, Kyle Stewart and Kate Santaliz report for NBC News.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is aiming to quash a subpoena for his testimony before a special grand jury investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. “I just filed a motion to quash the subpoena. We’ll see what the court says,” Graham told CNN yesterday. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading the investigation into Trump and his allies, said in court filings that the grand jury needed to hear from Graham about at least two calls Graham made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff in the wake of the 2020 election. In Graham’s filing to block the subpoena, his attorneys said the senator’s calls to Georgia officials were legislative activity and that his activities are protected under the Constitution’s speech and debate clause. Sara Murray, Jason Morris and Ted Barrett report for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A former CIA employee charged with carrying out the largest leak of classified data in the agency’s history was convicted on all counts in federal court yesterday. Joshua Schulte – who was accused of handing over reams of classified data to WikiLeaks in 2016 – was convicted of illegally gathering and transmitting national defense information and obstructing a criminal investigation and grand jury proceeding, among other charges. Mark Morales reports for CNN.
The Pentagon carried out successful tests of two different hypersonic missile systems recently, the U.S. Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced yesterday. The AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) had its second consecutive successful test on Tuesday after a series of testing failures earlier in the program. In addition to the successful test of the ARRW, the Pentagon also conducted a successful test of the OpFires missile. The development of hypersonic weapons has been a key priority for the Pentagon amid competition with China and Russia. Oren Liebermann reports for CNN.
The House yesterday voted to create a secure government system for reporting UFOs. The bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, passed by voice vote without debate, is part of an effort to exert more oversight over an enduring intelligence-gathering challenge that has gained more attention in recent years. The amendment would require a dedicated internal reporting system for the “immediate sharing” of information related to unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP, “previously prohibited from reporting under any nondisclosure written or oral agreement” or order. The measure is aimed at current and former military personnel, government civilians and contractors. The amendment also seeks to compel current and former officials to reveal what they might know about the mysterious phenomena by promising to protect them from reprisal. Bryan Bender and Lawrence Ukenye report for POLITICO.
The House yesterday approved an amendment for the yearly defense spending bill that compels government officials to prepare a report on instances of white supremacy and neo-Nazi activity in uniformed services and federal law enforcement. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), was added in a party-line 218-208 vote to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act with Democrats in support and Republicans in opposition. The measure would require the FBI director, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and the secretary of Defense to publish a report analyzing White supremacist and neo-Nazi activity within their ranks, and presenting ways to thwart it. Mychael Schell reports for The Hill.
President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid are expected to sign a new joint declaration today underscoring Israeli-American alliance. The declaration will be aimed at expanding the security relationship between the nations and countering efforts by Iran to destabilize the region, according to senior administration officials. The new declaration includes “a commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” one official previewing Biden’s schedule said. The declaration will express support for the Abraham Accords, one of Trump’s legacy achievements that normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries and pursued an expansion of growing Arab-Israeli security and economic ties. It will also outline shared concerns of the two nations, including food security as well as supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty as Russia’s invasion of the country continues. Kate Sullivan reports for CNN.
The House is set to vote this week on a bipartisan measure to significantly restrict Biden’s ability to sell advanced U.S. fighter jets to Turkey. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is also refusing to sign off on the transfer. These efforts taken together make it nearly impossible for the administration to follow through on its stated desire to sell the jets to a NATO ally that critics say is embracing authoritarianism and violating the sovereignty of neighboring nations. However, whilst congressional opposition makes the sale of advanced fighter jets to Turkey exceedingly difficult, Biden could declare a state of emergency to circumvent Congress – a step taken by former President Trump when lawmakers wouldn’t approve his bid to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.
In a written statement yesterday, China claimed its military had “driven away” a U.S. destroyer that sailed illegally into territorial waters near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea the previous day. The U.S. Navy swiftly pushed back on this accusation saying in a statement that the destroyer “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law.” The statement called China’s claim “false” and the “latest in a long string of PRC actions to misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims at the expense of its Southeastern Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
A pair of SU-27 Russian fighter jets have tried to bomb Snake Island, according to the South Ukrainian Operational Command. The targeting of Snake Island is significant, as Russian forces had abandoned the island on Jun. 30 following a Ukrainian offensive. The island, located in the Black Sea off Ukraine’s southern coast, is widely seen as strategically important to the war as it grants access to the Danube River and its small inland ports to ships carrying Ukrainian grain. Yulia Kesavia reports for CNN.
Three Russian missiles have struck the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, killing 12 people including a young child and wounding dozens. National police said an office block had been hit, nearby residential buildings were damaged and a medical center was destroyed. Ninety people sought medical attention and about 50 of them were in a serious condition, the police added. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the attack as an act of terrorism. Max Hunder reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. has called on Russia to immediately stop its systematic “filtration” and forced deportation of millions of Ukrainians in territories under Moscow’s control. “The unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians and is a war crime,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement yesterday. Blinken also called on Russia to allow outside observers access to the so-called “filtration camps” through which those who are detained and deported pass. Christopher Miller reports for POLITICO.
Russian officials have no place at this week’s meeting of the Group of 20 major economies (G-20), Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said. Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting of finance officials, Yellen called on the global community to hold Russia accountable for the war and its dramatic impact on energy prices and rising food insecurity. Yellen dodged a question about whether she would walk out when Russian officials spoke, as she and other Western leaders did during the last such meeting in Washington in April, but said she would condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “in the strongest possible terms”. Andrea Shalal reports for Reuters.
U.S. Tech companies are failing to keep up with Russian propaganda techniques Ukrainian officials have warned. Ukrainian officials who have flagged thousands of tweets, YouTube videos and other social media posts as Russian propaganda or anti-Ukrainian hate speech say the companies have grown less responsive to their requests to remove such content. New research by a Europe-based nonprofit initiative confirms that many of those requests seem to be going unheeded, with accounts parroting Kremlin talking points, spewing anti-Ukrainian slurs or even impersonating Ukrainian officials remaining active on major social networks. As a result, researchers say, Kremlin-backed narratives are once again propagating across Europe, threatening to undermine popular support for Ukraine in countries that it views as critical to its defense. Will Oremus reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that negotiations between Russia and Ukraine took “a critical step” forward yesterday in ensuring the export of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Guterres cautioned that “more technical work will now be needed” to reach an agreement, “but the momentum is clear … I’m encouraged. I’m optimistic, but it’s not yet fully done.” The U.N. chief spoke in New York, hours after military officials from Russia, Ukraine and Turkey met with U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths in Istanbul to discuss stumbling blocks to a deal. Turkey’s defense minister said agreements would be signed when negotiators meet again in Istanbul next week. Ayse Wieting, Suzan Fraser and Edith M. Lederer report for AP.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has called for an international “overarching strategy” to coordinate efforts to bring perpetrators of war crimes in Ukraine to justice. “The simple truth is that, as we speak, children, women and men, the young and the old, are living in terror,” ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said as he opened a Ukraine Accountability Conference in The Hague. “They’re suffering in Ukraine and in so many different parts of the world. Grieving about what they lost yesterday, holding their breath about what they could lose today, and what tomorrow can bring. At a time like this, the law cannot be a spectator.” Some 40 nations from the European Union and around the world sent representatives to today’s conference hosted by Khan, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra and European Union Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders. Mike Corder reports for AP.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “strongly condemns” the decision by North Korea to officially recognize the “so-called” independence of the Russian-occupied Luhansk and Donetsk regions in Ukraine, according to a statement released yesterday. Ukraine announced the severance of diplomatic relations with the country. “We consider this decision as an attempt by Pyongyang to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a gross violation of the Constitution of Ukraine, the UN Charter and the fundamental norms and principles of the international law,” the ministry’s statement said. Josh Pennington Hancocks and Alex Stambaugh report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
More than 100 of Ukraine’s Azov fighters will face trial, Denis Pushilin, leader of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), has said. “They have already been transferred from the places where they were kept as prisoners to the pre-trial detention center. All further steps are being prepared for them. A tribunal awaits them.” Western governments and human rights groups fear those convicted may face the death penalty, as last Friday, the DPR parliament abolished its ban on executions. Josh Pennington and Alex Stambaugh report for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has left the Maldives on a Saudi airlines flight bound for Singapore after fleeing Sri Lanka a day earlier amid mass protests over the country’s economic crisis. It is not clear if Mr Rajapaksa will stay in Singapore or whether he will use it as a layover destination. He had previously pledged to resign by Wednesday but has failed to submit a formal resignation so far. The leader, who as president enjoys immunity from prosecution, is believed to have wanted to leave Sri Lanka before stepping down to avoid the possibility of arrest by an incoming administration. Zubaidah Abdul Jalil reports for BBC News.
At least 31 people have been killed in the last week during renewed fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.N. says intense clashes between the Congolese army and several rebel groups have spread to the Beni territory where five bodies were recovered yesterday. Locals say the death toll might be even higher as dozens of people are still missing. Emmanuel Igunza reports for BBC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 89.22 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 559.591 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.36 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