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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 – PUBLIC HEARINGS
The Jan. 6 committee will hold the last in a series of public hearings today, delivering what amounts to a closing argument in the case it has made against former President Trump. The panel will accuse Trump of dereliction of duty for failing to call off the attack, putting two military veterans – Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) – front and center in leading its presentation and questioning. In an interview previewing the hearing, Luria said the panel planned to document how Trump did nothing for more than three hours while his supporters stormed the Capitol, despite having the power to call off the attack. In order to show this, the panel plans to elicit in-person accounts of what went on in the White House from former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, and former press aide Sarah Matthews. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
The Jan. 6 committee has in its possession video outtakes of Trump’s message to his supporters the day after the attack. The panel is expected to show clips of the outtakes during today’s public hearing, according to sources familiar with the matter. The outtakes show that over the course of an hour trying to tape the message, Trump resisted holding the attackers to account, tried to call them patriots, and refused to say the election was over. Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey and Paul Kane report for the Washington Post.
Today’s hearing is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. EST. Live coverage is provided by the January 6th Committee Media Center.
JAN. 6 ATTACK & 2020 ELECTION PROBES
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General learned in February that the Secret Service had erased nearly all text messages from around the time of the Jan. 6 attack, but chose not to alert Congress. In Oct. 2021, the watchdog agency also prepared to issue a public alert that the Secret Service and other department divisions were stonewalling it on requests for records surrounding the attack, but did not do so. The months-long delay in flagging the now-vanished Secret Service texts was revealed by two whistleblowers who have worked with Inspector General Joseph Cuffari. Both whistleblowers shared a concern that by not altering congressional investigators to the missing records, Cuffari’s office reduced the chances of recovering critical pieces of evidence relating to the Jan. 6 attack. Carol D. Leonnig and Maria Sacchetti report for the Washington Post.
The Secret Service may have violated federal records laws by failing to preserve data relating to the Jan. 6 attack after it had been requested by investigators, the Jan. 6 committee said yesterday. “The U.S. Secret Service system migration process went forward on January 27, 2021, just three weeks after the attack on the Capitol in which the Vice President of the United States while under the protection of the Secret Service, was steps from a violent mob hunting for him. Four House committees had already sought these critical records from the Department of Homeland Security before the records were apparently lost,” committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said in a joint statement. “Additionally, the procedure for preserving content prior to this purge appears to have been contrary to federal records retention requirements and may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act,” they said. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Rudy Guiliano has been ordered to testify in Atlanta next month as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into election interference by former President Trump and his allies. Giuliani, who led efforts to keep Trump in power as his personal lawyer, was ordered by a Georgia judge to testify after he failed to show for a hearing in Manhattan where his challenge to the subpoena compelling his testimony was set to be adjudicated, according to court filings released yesterday. Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset report for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A bipartisan group of senators proposed new legislation yesterday to modernize the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act. The legislation aims to guarantee a peaceful transition from one president to the next, after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol exposed how the current law could be manipulated to disrupt the process. One bill would make it more difficult for lawmakers to challenge a state’s electoral votes when Congress meets to count them and would clarify that the vice president has no discretion over the results. A second bill would increase penalties for threats and intimidation of election officials, seek to improve the Postal Service’s handling of mail-in ballots and renew for five years an independent federal agency that helps states administer and secure federal elections. Carl Hulse reports for the New York Times.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill to ban assault weapons yesterday, the first time in two decades a congressional panel has moved to prohibit the sale, transfer and possession of the firearms. The committee approved the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 in a 25-18 vote following an hours-long markup. While the assault weapons ban has passed through the committee, it is unclear when — and if — it will be brought to the House floor for a vote. House leadership has not yet announced a vote – likely because it is unclear if the legislation has enough support to pass. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has threatened to sue states that have outlawed or restricted abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month. “The Justice Department is going to use every tool we have to ensure reproductive freedom,” Garland said yesterday, adding that its lawyers would be looking at options including initiating litigation or joining private lawsuits against state abortion restrictions. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden has said that the Pentagon does not support a planned visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, following reports that she was set to visit the island in August. “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” Biden told reporters yesterday evening, adding that he did not know the status of the Taiwan trip. Pelosi’s office said it did “not confirm or deny international travel in advance due to longstanding security protocols.” The debate over whether Pelosi should visit Taiwan comes amid rising concern about assertive Chinese military activity around the island and anxiety about the possibility that Beijing could take military action. Demetri Sevastopulo reports for the Financial Times.
Biden plans to talk to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, within the next 10 days. The long-discussed call between the two leaders would be their first in four months. The U.S. considers China its main strategic rival and says high-level engagement is essential to keeping the difficult relationship stable and preventing it from veering into conflict. Last month, Washington pushed NATO to adopt a strategic document calling China a security challenge. Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt report for Reuters.
U.S. Strategic Command hosted its first meeting on North Korea’s weapons programme in May, bringing together dozens of intelligence officials, military officers and security analysts to assess the escalating nuclear threat from the country. The previously unreported event was the first at the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command, the arm of the Pentagon charged with deterring America’s rivals, to focus solely on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program, according to a spokesperson for the organization. Views on the nuclear threat posed by North Korea from those in attendance varied, but for some participants the broader message of the meeting was clear: While U.S. policy remains aimed at ending the North’s nuclear status, the program is now so far advanced that the priority is preventing its use. Alastair Gale reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has warned U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that if he doesn’t designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism then Congress will. The message was conveyed during a call between the two earlier this week, according to two sources familiar with the conversation. Whilst Congress gave the power to label another country as a state sponsor of terrorism to the secretary of state, some in Congress believe that it is in lawmakers’ gift to pass a law to make the designation without the State Department. Alexander Ward and Betsy Woodruff Swan report for POLITICO.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said today that there had been no contact with the U.S. over peace talks with Ukraine. “The American administration forbids its wards in Kyiv to even think about talks with us, and evidently forces them to fight to the last Ukrainian,” Zakharova told reporters. Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have been frozen since early April when ceasefire talks brokered by Turkey in Istanbul collapsed. Reuters reports.
There is no intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin is unstable or in bad health, the director of the CIA has said, following increasing media speculation on the issue. “There are lots of rumors about President Putin’s health and as far as we can tell he’s entirely too healthy,” CIA Director Williams Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. The Kremlin has also dismissed the rumors. Gordon Corera and George Wright report for BBC News.
The U.S. estimates that Russian casualties in Ukraine so far have reached around 15,000 killed and perhaps 45,000 wounded, Burns said yesterday. Burns also said that whilst Ukrainians have suffered losses as well, the numbers are likely to be less than this. Phil Stewart reports for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has resigned, ending a national unity government formed to tackle unpopular reforms. The coalition unraveled yesterday, following a rancorous parliamentary debate, in which Draghi accused some members of attempting to subvert his reform agenda. “After yesterday’s debate I have drawn my conclusions,” Draghi said during a brief appearance at the lower house of parliament before meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella to tender his resignation for a second time. In a statement, President Sergio Mattarella’s office on Thursday said that Draghi would remain in charge of current affairs. Mattarella is now expected to dissolve parliament and announce snap elections. Amy Kazim reports for the Financial Times.
Turkish warplanes struck a vacation resort in northern Iraq yesterday, killing at least eight people and injuring more than 23, according to government and hospital officials. Turkey’s armed forces regularly launch strikes into northern Iraq to target Kurdish militants who take refuge there. In a statement posted on Twitter, Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi accused Turkish Forces of committing “an explicit and blatant violation of the sovereignty of Iraq and the lives and security of Iraq citizens.” Iraq reserved its “full right to respond” and would hold “aggressors” accountable, al-Kadhimi added. Sangar Khaleel and Cora Engelbrecht report for the New York Times.
India is set to elect a female politician from a tribal community as its new president. Droupadi Murmu, 64, a veteran politician from the eastern state of Odisha is up against Yashwant Sinha, a former federal finance minister from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who switched sides and was pitted as a candidate by the opposition parties. As the BJP holds a majority in parliament and has also garnered support from other regional political parties in state legislative assemblies, the party is confident of a victory for Murmu. If elected, Murmu would be the first member of a tribal community and the second-ever woman to serve as the Indian president, offering visibility to hundreds of tribal communities that have long been marginalized and discriminated against. Rajesh Roy reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Taliban forced a longtime war correspondent to publically retract some of her articles this week, telling her that she would go to jail if she did not. In an article for Foreign Policy, reporter Lynne O’Donnell recounted how she was “detained, abused and threatened” by Taliban officials during her time in Kabul. The forced retraction by a Western journalist underscores the increasing restrictions on the press in Afghanistan, where new leadership that promised to allow media freedom is instead harassing and detaining journalists. A U.N. report released yesterday found that in the 10 months since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, 173 journalists and media workers were subject to human rights violations, including arrests, torture and threats. Katie Robertson reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 90.05 million people and has now killed over 1.03 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 566.846million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.38 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.