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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
Matthew Pottinger, who was deputy national security adviser under President Trump before resigning on Jan. 6, 2021, will testify at Thursday’s committee hearing, according to people familiar with the matter. Pottinger, who was in the White House much of the day of the riot, is one of the live witnesses for the hearing, which is expected to focus on the more than three hours in which Trump watched the violence unfold without taking any substantial steps to call off his supporters. He is expected to appear alongside Sarah Matthews, a former White House deputy press secretary who also resigned on Jan. 6. Maggie Haberman reports for the New York Times.
The Jan. 6 committee, which had planned to finish its inquiry by September, will extend its work beyond this date, as more information keeps coming in. Committee chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), said yesterday evening that what had been anticipated to be a final report in September will now be a “scaled-back” interim report. When asked whether the committee might continue to work until as late as December – beyond this fall’s congressional elections – he said “we want to be as thorough as we can.” Billy House reports for Bloomberg.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) revealed yesterday that he has been subpoenaed in a criminal investigation by prosecutors in Georgia into election interference by Trump and his allies. Hice, who has been a stalwart ally of Trump, is seeking to challenge the subpoena in federal court, arguing in a new legal filing that his status as a congressman gives him special protections from state proceedings. Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim report for the New York Times.
The trial of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon began yesterday with jury selection. Bannon is on trial for contempt charges for defying a subpoena by the Jan. 6 committee. Jury selection has been a central focus of Bannon’s legal team, who have argued that publicity around the recent Jan. 6 committee hearings would taint potential jurors. The group of 22 potential jurors selected yesterday, will be narrowed down this morning to 12 and two alternates, after which opening statements will begin. Alexa Corse reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The suspected gunman in the Indiana mall mass shooting carried two AR-style rifles, a pistol, and more than 100 rounds of ammo, authorities said yesterday. The suspected shooter was identified by officials as Jonathan Douglas Sapirman, 20. The deadly spree on Sunday was cut short by 22-year-old bystander, Elisjsha Dicken, who killed Sapirman with a handgun. Greenwood Police Chief Jim Ison credited Dicken with saving “countless lives,” and called his actions “nothing short of heroic.” Antonio Planas, Dennis Romero and Melina Chalkia report for NBC News.
The trial over whether the gunman who killed 17 people in Parkland, FL, in 2018 should be sentenced to death began yesterday, with jurors shown disturbing videos taken inside classrooms where several students were shot. Nikolas Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in Oct. to 17 counts of first-degree murder, as well as 17 counts of attempted murder relating to the people he wounded. His sentencing trial is expected to last for months. Under Florida law, a death sentence would require a unanimous recommendation by the jury; otherwise, the mandatory sentence is life in prison without the possibility of parole. Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Patricia Mazzei and Frances Robles report for the New York Times.
Department of Homeland Security advisers urged the agency yesterday to scrap the Disinformation Governance Board the Biden administration created this year. The board, which was created in April to fight disinformation-fueled extremism, proved controversial amongst Republicans and conservative media who accused it of infringing on privacy and free speech. A Homeland Security Advisory Council subcommittee concluded in a one-sentence draft recommendation that there was “no need” for the disinformation board and the council endorsed the recommendation at its meeting. Maria Sacchetti reports for the Washington Post.
CIA director, William Burns, issued a warning to the agency’s workforce last week after what appeared to be a noose was found outside a secret facility used by the agency in Virginia. In the note, Burns said that racism and racist symbols would not be tolerated in the agency. The CIA does not currently have evidence suggesting that an agency employee left the item, or that a foreign intelligence service was involved, according to some of those people briefed on the incident. However, the object was disturbing enough to prompt an investigation. Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
U.S. RELATIONS – CHINA
The most senior U.S. general has ordered a comprehensive review of U.S. military interactions with Chinese forces over the last five years. By launching the review, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley is seeking to gain a detailed understanding of all interactions between the two militaries, especially any that could be deemed “unsafe” or “unprofessional” due to Chinese aircraft or ships operating too close to U.S. military assets. “China has been on the rise, economically and militarily, for more than a decade. They’ve become more bold in the Pacific,” Milley said in a written statement to CNN. “Maintaining open lines of communication and managing competition will reduce strategic risk. The US military’s focus is on modernization and readiness. Our network of partners and allies is a source of strength.” Barbara Starr reports for CNN.
Nancy Pelosi plans to visit Taiwan next month as the island comes under mounting pressure from China, according to six people familiar with the matter. Pelosi’s visit will come as U.S.-China relations remain mired in their worst state since the countries normalised diplomatic relations in 1979 and Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. In April, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said a Pelosi visit would be a “malicious provocation”. Demetri Sevastopulo and Kathrin Hille report for the Financial Times.
China has demanded that the U.S. immediately cancel its latest arms sale to Taiwan, the Chinese state broadcaster reported yesterday, citing the country’s Ministry of National Defence. The Pentagon said on Friday that the U.S. State Department had approved the potential sale of military technical assistance to Taiwan worth an estimated $108 million. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
State Department spokesman Ned Price said yesterday that the U.S. is requesting “additional information” from the U.A.E. about the arrest of Asim Ghafoor, a U.S. citizen and former attorney for murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The U.A.E. sentenced Ghafoor over the weekend to three years in prison and an $800,000 fine on charges of money laundering and tax evasion after a previous in-absentia conviction. However, whilst the U.A.E Public Prosecution credited Ghafoor’s arrest to mutual coordination with the U.S., Price said the U.S. has not sought Ghafoor’s arrest and had conveyed to the U.A.E its expectation that he “be afforded a fair and transparent legal process and that he be treated humanely.” Ghafoor’s attorney, Faisal Gill, said yesterday that his client had not heard anything about his conviction in the U.A.E. before his arrest and had yet to see any documentation for the government’s charges. John Hudson and Kareem Fahim report for the Washington Post.
The chief of Russia’s foreign spy service met Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan this week, just three days after CIA Director William Burns visited Yerevan for talks, the Armenian government has said. Armenian statements on the two meetings were similar: they discussed bilateral relations and also questions of international and regional security, including in the South Caucasus. Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), was quoted by Russia’s Sputnik state news agency as saying: “My visit to Yerevan is definitely not connected with the arrival of my American colleague. But I don’t exclude that his visit is on the contrary connected with mine.” Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
At least six people were injured, including a child, after Russian missiles struck the city of Odesa in southern Ukraine, a Ukrainian military official said today. Serhiy Bratchuk spokesperson for the Odesa military administration said in a Telegram post that the city was targeted by seven “Kalibr” cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea. Six of the Russian missiles evaded Ukrainian air defenses and hit areas with a “civilian population,” Bratchuk said. Teele Rebane and Josh Pennington report for CNN.
An influx of Western weapons is shifting the battlefield balance in Ukraine’s favor, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials. In his daily video message, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces are “able to inflict significant logistical losses on the occupiers.” “It is increasingly difficult for the Russian army to hold positions on the captured territory,” he added. Valeriy Zaluzhniy, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said the “timely arrival” of longer range artillery such as the US HIMARS system was helping to change the battlefield. Tim Lister reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday as part of her high-profile trip to the United States. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken emphasized the U.S.’ “commitment to support Ukraine’s victory” during his meeting with Zelenska. Blinken also reiterated that the U.S. will continue to help Ukraine respond to the significant economic and humanitarian challenges it faces. Rashard Rose and Kate Bennett report for CNN.
Samantha Power, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, has said that nations that refuse to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine risk accelerating a global food crisis. In her comments, Powers singled out China for hoarding fertilizer and grain, and for contributing only $3 million to the U.N. World Food Program in 2022 – compare with the $2.7 billion donated by the U.S. Power’s comments highlight the increasing anger of the U.S. and its allies of China’s tacit support for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lara Jakes reports for the New York Times.
South Korea has said it is willing to support U-S. led plans to impose a price cap on Russian oil, following a bilateral meeting between Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and South Korean Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho. Yellen, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been championing a price cap on Russian oil and is seeking to build support for the move from key allies including Seoul, in a bid to avert a price spike that could prompt a recession. No ceiling has been set but a price-cap measure joined by major Russian oil buyers including the E.U. could force Moscow to either give up part of their output or sell the balance of its production at the cap. Cynthia Kim reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukraine’s parliament dismissed the domestic security chief and prosecutor general today after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suspended them for failing to root out Russian spies. Ivan Bakanov was fired from his position at the helm of the Security Service of Ukraine by a comfortable majority, several lawmakers said on the Telegram messaging app. The head of Zelenskiy’s political faction said Iryna Venediktova had also been voted out as prosecutor general. Reuters reports.
Tehran is ready to export military equipment and weapons, Iran’s army ground forces commander Kiumars Heydari has said. “Currently, we are ready to export military equipment and weapons,” Heydari told student-led news agency Young Journalists Club, a week after the U.S. accused Iran of preparing to send “several hundreds of drones” to Russia. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian rejected such accusations in a call with his Ukrainian counterpart on Friday. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil called dozens of foreign diplomats to the presidential palace yesterday to tell them that he believed the country’s voting systems could be rigged. Whilst Bolsonaro has repeated these claims for years, by inviting officials from most of the embassies in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, he elevated the claims from a matter of domestic politics to foreign policy. Many diplomats were shaken by the presentation, where Bolsonaro suggested that the way to ensure safe elections was through deeper involvement of Brazil’s military. The presentation comes 75 days before an election that Bolsonaro is predicted to lose, heightening international fears that he is planning to dispute the result. André Spigariol and Jack Nicas report for the New York Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Tehran today for talks with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “The contact with Khamenei is very important,” Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters in Moscow. “A trusting dialogue has developed between them on the most important issues on the bilateral and international agenda…on most issues, our positions are close or identical.” In Tehran, Putin will also hold his first face-to-face meeting since the invasion with a NATO leader, Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss a deal aimed at allowing the resumption of Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports as well as peace in Syria. Guy Faulconbridge and Parisa Hafezi report for Reuters.
A military strike on Syria would destabilise the region Khamenei has told Erdogan. Turkey, which has mounted four operations in northern Syria since 2016, has vowed to launch more military operations to extend 30-km (20-mile) deep “safe zones” along the border. Reuters reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 89.54 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 562.475million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.37 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.