Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
U.S. RELATIONS – TAIWAN
During a historic trip to Taiwan, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her visit was intended to make it “unequivocally clear” that the U.S. would “not abandon” the democratically governed island. Pelosi left Taiwan today, en route to South Korea’s capital Seoul, after becoming the first sitting U.S. House Speaker in 25 years to visit the self-governing island. Pelosi’s praise of the island’s commitment to democracy was a significant show of support for Taipei, in the face of escalating threats from China. Rob Picheta reports for CNN.
China has threatened to hold major military exercises around Taiwan this week in response to Pelosi’s visit to the island. Shortly after Pelosi landed in Taipei, China announced that the People’s Liberation Army would hold live-fire drills — exercises using live ammunition — at several points around Taiwan. Taiwan’s defense ministry said China’s threat to hold live-fire exercise areas was aimed at threatening the country’s key ports and urban areas and unilaterally damaged regional peace and stability. Kathrine Hille and Demetri Sevastopulo report for the Financial Times.
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan reflects Washington’s desire to prove its “impunity and display their lawlessness,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. Lavrov also connected Pelosi’s visit with the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying: “I cannot tell what was their [the Americans’] motivation but there are no doubts that it reflects the very same policy we are talking about with regards to the Ukrainian situation.” Radia Gigova reports for CNN.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a “complete farce,” warning that “those who play with fire will perish.” “The United States is violating China’s sovereignty under the pretense of democracy,” Wang told reporters. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office also said in a separate statement that Beijing will take “criminal punishment measures” for those who are “die-hard” in support of Taiwanese independence. Wayne Chang reports for CNN.
The website of Taiwan’s presidential office went dark yesterday due to an alleged distributed denial-of-service attack. The attack took place just hours before Pelosi’s visit. Other Taiwanese government sites were also down ahead of the visit, including the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the website of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, where Pelosi’s plane landed. James Lewis, the director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, downplayed the attacks, noting they were likely not tied back directly to the Chinese government, and describing them as “squeals of rage.” Maggie Miller reports for POLITICO.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The State Department has warned that there is a “higher potential for anti-American violence” following the U.S. killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. “The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas,” the agency said in a Worldwide Caution advisory issued yesterday. “Current information suggests that terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions across the globe,” the State Department noted. Shawna Chen reports for Axios.
The Kremlin has told the U.S. that time is running out to negotiate a replacement for the “New START” nuclear arms reduction treaty and that if it expired in 2026 without a replacement then global security would be weakened. “Moscow has repeatedly talked about the need to start such negotiations as soon as possible because there is little time left,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters yesterday. “If the treaty ceases to exist without being replaced with something sound, then it will have the most negative impact on world security and stability,” Peskov said. President Biden said on Monday his administration was ready to “expeditiously” negotiate a new framework to replace New START but Moscow should demonstrate that it is ready to resume work on nuclear arms control with Washington. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The Senate is set to ratify NATO membership for Finland and Sweden today, a crucial step towards expanding the Western military alliance in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had committed to the leaders of both countries that the Senate would approve the ratification resolution as fast as possible to bolster the alliance “in light of recent Russian aggression.” The Senate is expected to launch several hours of debate, including on two amendments, before the final vote. Lisa Mascaro reports for AP.
The Treasury Department has sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputed girlfriend as part of a series of measures designed to punish the Kremlin for its ongoing war in Ukraine. Alina Maratovna Kabaeva, who has been romantically linked to the Russian leader, was sanctioned “for being or having been a leader, official, senior executive officer, or member of the board of directors of the Government of the Russian Federation,” a Treasury Department statement said. In addition to Kabaeva, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against a number of other oligarchs, a major steel production company and two of its subsidiaries as well as a financial institution accused of running a sanctions evasion operation and its general director. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog has warned that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine is “completely out of control.” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has issued an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to visit the Zaporizhzhia complex to stabilize the situation and avoid a nuclear accident. “Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated” at the plant, he said, “what is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous.” Edith M. Lederer report for AP.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to China “to join the united world” and oppose Russia amid the war in Ukraine. The President discussed China when answering questions from students during a virtual address to the Australian National University. Zelensky admitted Beijing’s “neutrality is better” than if China would join Russia, believing “the nation, the people of China will do the prudent choice.” He went on to say it is “important that China wouldn’t help Russia.” Gabby Gretener reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Sri Lanka will restart bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund in August, new President Wickremesinghe told lawmakers in his first major address to Parliament. Wickremesinghe also said that constitutional amendments were required to curtail presidential powers — indicating he would meet a key demand of protesters who forced out his predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Reuters reports.
The landmark truce between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels, which has been holding since April, has been renewed for an additional two months. The extension includes a commitment to intensify negotiations to reach an expanded agreement as soon as possible, U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg announced yesterday. “I count on the continued cooperation of the parties to meet their commitments and implement all elements of the truce and to negotiate in good faith to reach an expanded truce agreement, and to put Yemen on a path to sustainable peace. The Yemeni people deserve no less,” he said in a statement. UN News Centre reports.
Democratic Republic of Congo has asked the spokesperson of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, to leave the country, blaming him for stoking tensions that led to deadly protests last week. The government said that the spokesperson, Mathias Gillmann, had made “indelicate and inappropriate” statements which contributed to the tensions between the population and MONUSCO. “The Congolese government considers that the presence of this official on the national territory is not likely to promote a climate of mutual trust and calm between Congolese institutions and MONUSCO,” said the statement from the foreign affairs ministry. The mission as a whole is due to withdraw by 2024, however the government aims to speed up its departure. Reuters reports.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – JAN. 6 ATTACK & 2020 ELECTION PROBEs
Former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to a source familiar with the matter. Cipollone and his attorneys are in discussions about an appearance before the grand jury, including how to deal with executive privilege issues, the source said. The move to subpoena Cipollone signals an even more dramatic escalation in the Justice Department’s investigation of the efforts to overturn the election, following appearances by senior members of former Vice President Mike Pence’s staff before the grand jury two weeks ago. Katherine Faulders, John Santucci and Alexander Mallin report for ABC News.
The Pentagon erased a potential trove of material related to the Jan. 6, attack from the phones of senior defense officials in the Trump administration, according to legal filings. Court records published on the website of the watchdog group American Oversight indicate that the Pentagon “wiped” the government-issued phones of senior Defense Department and Army officials who were in charge of mobilizing the National Guard to respond to the attack, including then-acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. The admission makes the Defense Department the latest known part of the federal government, including the Secret Service and other parts of the Department of Homeland Security, to have deleted records that could have assisted investigations into the events of Jan. 6. Karoun Demirjian and Jacqueline Alemany report for the Washington Post.
The first trial on seditious conspiracy charges related to the Jan. 6 attack is on track to begin next month after a federal judge turned down a bid by nearly all 9 defendants to delay the trial til next year. The defendants are all members of the Oath Keepers’ militia and include founder Stewart Rhodes. Defense attorneys argued that publicity related to the Jan. 6 committee’s televised hearings and difficulties accessing evidence related to the case warranted putting off the trial from its scheduled Sept. 26 date for the opening of jury selection. However, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said that a postponement would upend the court’s trial calendar and that trying to schedule the trial to avoid any potential conflict with the Jan. 6 committee would be unwise and likely ineffective. Mehta also said he was confident the court could find jurors untainted by publicity related to the committee’s hearings. Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.
Mehta also denied former President Trump’s bid to dismiss three lawsuits brought by police officers injured in the Jan. 6 attack, rejecting his assertion that he is “absolutely immune” from the claims. The lawsuits, brought on behalf of four U.S. Capitol Police officers, seek to hold Trump liable for emotional and physical injuries they sustained during the attack. “In nearly identically worded motions, President Trump has moved to dismiss all three actions on one ground: he is absolutely immune from suit because the acts complained of fall within the ‘outer perimeter’ of his presidential responsibilities,” Mehta wrote in his brief ruling. The judge noted that he had rejected similar arguments by Trump in other Jan. 6 lawsuits this year. “The court does so again,” Mehta wrote. Dareh Gregorian and Daniel Barnes report for NBC News.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The FBI’s process for receiving reports of violent threats or harassment against election officials is failing to cope with the volume of reports, the executive director of the National Association of State Election Directors will tell Congress today. “A common refrain I hear from my members is that nobody is going to take this seriously until something bad happens, and we are all braced for the worst,” Amy Cohen will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a copy of her prepared testimony. Some senior election officials have struggled to get security details from state police, Cohen will testify, in an environment that has only grown more tense amid false conspiracy theories about fraud in the 2020 presidential election. More broadly, election officials lack a clear definition of what constitutes a threat or harassment at the federal level, according to Cohen’s written remarks. Sean Lyngaas and Tierney Sneed report for CNN.
The criminal inquiry into whether Rudolph Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian officials during the 2020 presidential campaign is unlikely to result in charges, two people familiar with the matter have said. While prosecutors had enough evidence last year to persuade a judge to order the seizure of Giuliani’s electronic devices, they did not uncover a smoking gun in the records, the sources said. The prosecutors have not closed the investigation, and if new evidence were to emerge, they could still pursue Giuliani. However, investigators recently returned the electronic devices to Giuliani – a telling sign that the inquiry is close to wrapping up without an indictment. William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess report for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 91.47 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 578.325 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.40 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.