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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 Georgia prosecutors scrutinizing former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election said yesterday that all 16 “fake electors” are now targets of an ongoing criminal investigation. “Each of the sixteen persons who signed the unofficial Elector Certificate ultimately submitted to the National Archives received a similar target letter alerting that person both that his testimony was required by the special purpose grand jury and that he was a target of the investigation,” prosecutors said. The significant development indicates prosecutors are moving closer to possible criminal charges against those involved in the scheme. Zachary Cohen, Sara Murray and Jason Morris report for CNN.
The Secret Service was only able to provide a single text exchange to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general who had requested a month’s worth of records, according to a letter to the Jan. 6 committee. This revelation provides insight into the concern raised in a previous letter to Congress by the inspector general, who accused the agency of not retaining records needed for the Jan. 6 investigation. In June 2021 Inspector General Joseph Cuffari requested text messages sent and received by 24 Secret Service personnel between Dec. 7, 2020, and Jan. 8, 2021, according to the previously unreported letter. “The Secret Service submitted the responsive records it identified, namely, a text message conversation from former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to former Secret Service Uniformed Division Chief Thomas Sullivan requesting assistance on January 6, 2021, and advised the agency did not have any further records responsive to the DHS OIG’s request for text messages,” Assistant Director Ronald Rowe wrote in the letter. Jamie Gangel reports for CNN.
The Secret Service has no new text messages related to the Jan. 6 attack to hand over to the Jan. 6 committee, a source familiar with the matter has said. The Secret Service plans to do a “forensic examination” of agents’ phones identified in the inspector general’s report, the source said, adding that the agency does not expect this will yield relevant emails or other records. The Jan. 6 committee had given the Secret Service until yesterday morning to turn over the text messages it had subpoenaed. However, according to committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), whilst the Secret Service has provided lots of documents and some data, the committee has not received the additional text messages they were looking for. Scott Wong and Peter Nicholas report for NBC News.
Arguments in the federal trial of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon began yesterday, with prosecutors saying in opening statements that Bannon “decided he was above the law” by defying a subpoena to testify before the Jan. 6 committee. Bannon’s defense claimed that the case against him arose from a politically charged Congress, with Bannon telling reporters outside court that the Jan. 6 committee had launched a “show trial.” The trial is set to continue today. Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Devlin Barrett and Shayna Jacobs report for the Washington Post.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Americans’ approval of the Supreme Court has fallen again, according to a new poll released yesterday. The Marquette Law School poll, which was conducted just days after the court overturned Roe v. Wade, found that only 38% of respondents approved of the nine justices. Just one year ago, in July 2021, the Marquette poll showed 60% approval. Devan Cole reports for CNN.
Democratic members of Congress were among those arrested by Capitol Police yesterday as part of an abortion rights protest in front of the Supreme Court. The U.S. Capitol Police tweeted: “Demonstrators are starting to block First Street, NE. It is against the law to block traffic, so officers are going to give our standard three warnings before they start making arrests.” Capitol police later said they had arrested 34 people in total, including 16 members of Congress. Edward-Isaac Dovere reports for CNN.
The House yesterday passed a bill that would provide protection for same-sex and interracial marriage under federal law. The 267-157 vote on the Respect for Marriage Act followed concerns from Democratic lawmakers that the recent supreme court ruling ending abortion rights could endanger other precedents. The chamber is also set to vote on the Right to Contraception Act – both pieces of legislation would enshrine into law rights not enumerated in the Constitution but that the court has recognized in recent decades. Eliza Collins reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Top national security officials warned yesterday about the continuing threat of election interference from aboard. During a cyber security conference in Manhattan, FBI director, Christopher Wray, emphasized that Russia could still seek to meddle or promote disinformation during the 2022 midterm races, even as it wages war on Ukraine. Iran and China also remain potent threats, mounting their own campaigns to undermine American democracy, Wray and other officials speaking at the conference said. Adam Goldman reports for the New York Times.
Law-enforcement authorities recently disrupted a North Korean state-sponsored hacking campaign that targeted hospitals and other medical facilities in the U.S., Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said yesterday. The disruption was part of a Justice Department operation that included the cryptocurrency seizure of about half a million dollars in ransom payments. The operation is the latest example of the Biden administration’s strategy to rely less on charging foreign hackers who may never see a courtroom and instead dedicate resources to combatting cyberattacks before they can do more damage, Monaco said. Dustin Volz reports for the Wall Street Journal.
China issued a fresh warning yesterday that a Taiwan visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would deeply damage U.S.-China relations. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said that such a visit would “have a severe negative impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and send a gravely wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.” The statement follows news that Pelosi plans to make a trip to the island in August. James T. Areddy reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukrainian shelling has badly damaged the crucial Antonivskyi bridge in the Russia-controlled Kherson region of southern Ukraine, Moscow-installed regional authorities have said. The bridge – one of only two crossing points for Russian forces to territory they have occupied on the western bank of the vast Dnipro river in southern Ukraine – has been a key target for Ukrainian forces in recent days, with Kyiv using high-precision U.S.-supplied rockets to try to destroy it. Reuters reports.
The geographical objectives of Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine are no longer limited to the eastern Donbas region but include a number of other territories, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said. Russia’s objectives will expand still further if the West delivers long-range weapons to Kyiv, he added. Reuters reports.
The White House has warned that Russia is beginning to roll out its plans to annex large parts of southern Ukraine by installing proxy officials and preparing to hold sham referendums. John Kirby, head of strategic communications at the U.S. National Security Council, told reporters: “Russia is beginning to roll out a version of what you could call an annexation playbook — very similar to the one we saw in 2014,” referring to when the Kremlin sent special forces into Crimea to capture territory before holding a carefully controlled referendum on sovereignty. “Already Russia is installing illegitimate proxy officials in the areas of Ukraine that are under its control, and we know their next moves,” he added. “First, these proxy officials will arrange sham referenda on joining Russia, then Russia will use those sham referendums as a basis to try to claim annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.” The Kremlin had detailed plans in place to annex the cities of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, as well as the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Kiran Stacey reports for the Financial Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ended his summit in Tehran with an endorsement from Iran for its invasion of Ukraine. “War is a violent and difficult endeavor, and the Islamic Republic is not at all happy that people are caught up in war, But in the case of Ukraine, if you had not taken the helm, the other side would have done so and initiated a war,” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Putin, according to the supreme leader’s office. Khamenei’s endorsement of the war went well beyond the much more cautious support offered by another key Russian ally, China, embracing Putin’s claim that the West had left the Kremlin no choice but to act. It was a signal to the world that with Europe and the United States now hitting Russia with sanctions comparable to those that have suffocated Iran’s economy for years, the long-fraught relationship between Moscow and Tehran may be becoming a true partnership. Anton Troianovski and Farnaz Fassihi report for the New York Times.
The Biden administration is putting $100 million into a new program to provide Ukrainian farmers with vital supplies. Some Ukrainian farms have turned into battlefields, and farmers who have maintained their harvests have been unable to get machinery and other key supplies including fertilizer, seeds and storage bins that would typically arrive through Black Sea ports due to Russia’s ongoing blockade of Ukrainian ports. It is hoped that the new program will allow farmers to maintain future harvests, alleviating the global food security crisis that has been exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Kylie Atwood reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Sri Lankan MPs have elected prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s new president, despite his unpopularity with the public. Speaking to parliament following his win he urged for unity and bipartisanship moving forward, saying that the nation was “in a very difficult situation” and there were “big challenges ahead.” Protestors and activists, who had called for his resignation alongside that of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, have expressed despair and disappointment over his appointment. Frances Mao and Anbarasan Ethirajan report for BBC News
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has stepped back from resigning, calling for a new pact to save his unity government from collapse. Six days after the president rejected his resignation, Draghi said it was impossible to ignore the many Italians calling for the coalition to survive. Draghi tendered his resignation last week when the populist Five Star Movement pulled out of a confidence vote over policy disagreements. Now Draghi has decided to face down the Five Star movement and stay. A confidence vote will take place on Wednesday evening, which he will need to pass to remain in the job. Mark Lowen and Paul Kirby report for BBC News.
China is asking the U.N. to bury a highly-anticipated report on human rights violations in Xinjiang, according to a letter seen by Reuters and confirmed by three diplomats. The letter, which China began circulating among diplomatic missions in Geneva from late June, expresses “grave concern” about the Xinjiang report and aims to halt its release. “The assessment (on Xinjiang), if published, will intensify politicisation and bloc confrontation in the area of human rights, undermine the credibility of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), and harm the cooperation between OHCHR and member states,” the letter says. United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who faced severe criticism from human rights organisations for being too soft on China during her May visit, has pledged to publish a report on the region before stepping down at the end of August. Emma Farge reports for Reuters.
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.