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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments. Here’s today’s news:
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Satellite imagery showed that the Ukrainian strike on a Russian airbase in Crimea did far more damage than initially reported. The Russian Defense Ministry had claimed that no aircraft had been destroyed in the strike, yet new satellite photos show at least eight destroyed jets. The Ukrainian military has not claimed responsibility for the strike and a senior Ukrainian official told the New York Times that the blasts were an attack carried out with the help of partisans. Richard Pérez-Peña and Christiaan Triebert report for the New York Times.
A Russian military attack killed 13 Ukrainian civilians in a district near a nuclear plant. The attack represents further intensification of fighting in the region surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Storage facilities at the plant itself had been damaged by shelling earlier this month. According to the military administrator of the region, Russian forces fired 80 rockets on residential neighborhoods in this latest attack, striking apartment blocks, administrative buildings, and infrastructure, and leaving 1,000 people without gas. Matthew Mpoke Bigg reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Hungary agreed yesterday to pay the debts owed by Russia’s oil pipeline operator to Ukraine, enabling oil flows to continue to central Europe. According to energy administrators in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, Russian oil deliveries from the pipeline had stopped last week over “technical” banking issues connected to the sanctions imposed on Russia. Melissa Eddy reports for the New York Times.
A U.S. official ruled out the possibility of the U.S. imposing a ban on all Russian visitors. In an interview with the Washington Post, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on western countries to ban all Russian visitors. But the official said such a ban would mean denying entry to Russian dissidents and those who have criticized the war, as well as individuals who have been persecuted for their politics or sexual orientation, the official said. The Washington Post reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Congress sent multiple letters on Wednesday to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), asking leaders of the Secret Service, the department, and its watchdog to supply documents about missing text messages regarding Jan. 6. The letters ask numerous questions such as possible text recovery methods and request more specifics on the exact time period when then-DHS acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli’s messages cannot be accounted for. In a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secret Service Director James Murray, the House Committee on Homeland Security wrote, “Although DHS and the USSS may not have maliciously deleted text messages, we are deeply concerned about the implementation of the data migration, including the decision to continue with the migration after multiple entities requested the preservation of communications on or around January 6, 2021.” Rebecca Beitsch reports for the Hill.
U.S. Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) received his phone back from investigators on Wednesday and was told by prosecutors that he was a witness in, not a subject of, their inquiry, according to his attorney. “Representative Perry has directed us to cooperate with the Justice Department in order to ensure that it gets the information it is entitled to, but to also protect information that it is not entitled to,” attorney John Irving said. In efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Perry pushed Trump to appoint Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, as his acting attorney general, which ultimately did not occur as many department officials threatened to resign. The Justice Department’s Inspector General’s Office began the inquiry last year, but prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington increasingly appear to be handling the probe. Alan Feuer, Luke Broadwater, and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.
OTHER U.S. DEVELOPMENTS
Former President Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions more than 400 times during an hours-long deposition yesterday with New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office. The court-ordered deposition is part of a civil investigation into whether Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his assets to secure loans and other benefits. Questions covered topics including his businesses, property valuations and loans, according to a person familiar with the developments. From Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett for the Washington Post.
Trump has frequently mocked others for invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. His refusal “was an unexpected twist that could determine the course of Ms. James’s three-year civil investigation into whether the former president fraudulently inflated the value of his assets to secure loans and other benefits.” Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum report for the New York Times.
The former president was forced to testify in the deposition after he and his children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, failed to block subpoenas. “Ivanka Trump’s deposition took place last week and Trump Jr. had his deposition in late July, people familiar with the matter said. Trump Jr., who runs the Trump Organization with his brother Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump did not assert their Fifth Amendment rights and answered the state’s questions, the people said.” Kara Scannell reports for CNN.
Shahram Poursafi, an Iranian national, plotted to assassinate at least two former Trump administration officials, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a likely response to the 2020 killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Poursafi offered to pay an individual in the United States $300,000 and was working for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, an elite unit responsible for its foreign operation. Although Bolton’s Secret Service protection was terminated by Trump in Sept. 2019 when he resigned, the Biden administration granted him Secret Service protection in Dec. 2021 again as the FBI’s investigation became more serious. Dustin Volz and Vivian Salama report for the Wall Street Journal.
European national and local governments are pushing to curtail energy usage in response to Russia’s gas cuts over Western sanctions during the war in Ukraine. As countries prepare for winter and the possibility of a total shut-off, the emerging policies, which focus on public spaces as of now, aim to conserve energy and help stockpile reserves. Some of these measures include limiting air conditioning usage, turning off lights on public buildings, shorter showers, and others. The actions stem from a nonbinding strategy the European Union agreed to last month to curb its gas consumption by 15 percent over eight months, among other measures. David Uberti and Eliza Collins report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Eastern Theater Command of China’s military said Wednesday that it had completed several days of live-fire military drills around Taiwan, ending a week of military exercises in response to a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island. The People’s Liberation Army command said it would continue regular patrols in the Taiwan Strait. Additionally, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office issued its first policy paper on Taiwan in 22 years, reaffirming its prerogative to use military force to gain control over the island, if necessary, and repeating its longstanding offer for Taiwan to submit voluntarily to its control under a “One Country, Two Systems” framework similar to the arrangement for Hong Kong after it reverted to Chinese control. From Karen Hao and Joyu Wang for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. pledged to continue operating around Taiwan, despite heightened pressure from China. The Biden administration has vowed to continue sailing warships through the Taiwan Strait and to conduct air operations in the region in response to Chinese military drills. While U.S. officials say that they do not seek to escalate the tensions further, they argue that the Chinese government has used Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as an excuse to step up its operations to intimidate Taiwan. David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Ben Dooley report for the New York Times.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Russia confirmed for the first time that negotiations were taking place with the Biden administration for a potential prisoner exchange. The United States has proposed that Russia release WNBA star Whitney Griner and another American prisoner, Paul Whelan, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Nechayev said today that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed last week that Russia was willing to talk. Griner was sentenced in a Russian court last week to nine years in prison. Her legal team says it will appeal. Media have reported that the Biden administration has offered to swap Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States. From Robyn Dixon at the Washington Post.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to slow oil and gas extraction plans. The DRC had planned to auction off large sections of its rainforest, which are critical to mitigating climate change, to energy companies for exploration. Following his meeting with President Tshisekedi, Blinken announced the formation of a joint American-Congolese team to examine the proposals. Edward Wong reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected more than 92.56 million people and has killed 1.03 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been more than 587.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.4 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 theWashington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.