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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.
Federal judge Aileen M. Cannon signaled yesterday that she remained open to granting former President Trump’s request to appoint a special master to go through documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago last month. After a nearly two-hour hearing, Cannon reserved judgment on the question of whether to appoint a so-called special master in the case, saying she would issue a written order “in due course.” Notably, Judge Cannon did not direct the FBI to stop working with the files, which the Justice Department has said have already undergone a preliminary review by law enforcement officials. Patricia Mazzei, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage report for the New York Times.
Cannon also said she would make public a more detailed list of the items the FBI took from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. The decision by Cannon opens the prospect of a much fuller picture of what documents might be among the classified material seized. Arian Campo-Flores and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
A former New York City police officer, who assaulted police in the Jan. 6 attack, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison – the longest sentence handed down in a case related to the attack. Thomas Webster was found guilty in May of assaulting a Washington D.C. police officer during the attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Trump. Kanishka Singh reports for Reuters.
Kellye SoRelle, an attorney connected to the far-right extremist Oath Keepers, has been arrested and charged for her role in the events on and around Jan. 6. SoRelle faces three felony charges: conspiracy to obstruct the Jan. 6 session of Congress, obstruction of an official proceeding and obstruction of justice for document tampering. Prosecutors say she persuaded associates to destroy or conceal records related to the attack on the Capitol. She also faces a misdemeanor charge for trespassing on the restricted grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6. SoRelle was also present at a meeting between Rhodes and Proud Boys chair Enrique Tarrio in a Washington, D.C. parking garage on Jan. 5, 2021, an encounter that has become a focus for prosecutors and the select committee. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
Trump has said he will “very, very seriously” consider full pardons for those involved in the Jan. 6 attack, if he runs for reelection and wins. Trump had made a similar promise during his final days in office when some of the January 6 rioters were already in jail. None, however, were pardoned before he left office. Annie Grayer and Paul LeBlance report for CNN.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has asked former Speaker Newt Gingrich to sit for a voluntary interview about his involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. In a letter to Gingrich, the committee said its investigators had obtained evidence that he was in contact with senior advisers to Trump about television advertisements that amplified false claims of fraud in the 2020 election and other aspects of the scheme to block the transfer of power, both before and after a mob attacked the Capitol. Gingrich pushed messages explicitly designed to incite anger among voters, even after Georgia election officials had faced intimidation and threats of violence, the letter says. In particular, Gingrich advocated promoting the false claims that election workers in Atlanta had smuggled in fake votes in suitcases. The committee requested that he sit for an interview during the week of Sept. 19. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, has filed a suit against the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The suit, which was filed yesterday afternoon in federal court in Washington, names the committee itself as a defendant, as well as each member of the panel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the suit, Mastriano argues that the committee’s rules and composition mean it cannot compel witnesses to sit for depositions. Mastriano is asking for declaratory relief — a request for the judge to declare the committee cannot compel him to sit for a deposition — as well as for the panel to pay his attorney’s fees. Betsy Woodruff Swan reports for POLITICO.
Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his former deputy Patrick Philbin are set to appear today before the federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Cipollone and Philbin, who were subpoenaed last month, have previously given evidence to the Jan. 6 committee and have sat for interviews with the FBI regarding Trump’s handling of documents. Katherine Faulder and John Santucci report for ABC News.
2020 GEORGIA ELECTION PROBE
Lindsey Graham can be questioned about his activity surrounding the 2020 election, a federal judge has ruled. In particular, prosecutors investigating efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia can ask him about certain elements of his November 2020 phone calls with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state. Raffensperger has said that in those calls, Graham suggested rejecting mail-in votes in the presidential election from counties with high rates of questionable signatures. The order from U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May must now be taken up for consideration by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Richard Fausset reports for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
During his prime-time address yesterday, President Biden warned that former President Trump and his allies are threatening to undermine the nation’s democracy. Standing in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Biden directly condemned what he called “MAGA Republicans,” citing the Jan. 6 attack. “Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal,” he said. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.” “As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault,” he added. During Biden’s speech, the voices of demonstrators shouting into bullhorns could be heard from nearby streets in opposition to his remarks. Ken Thomas and Catherine Lucey report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration is pivoting to a long-term strategy to assist Afghans who worked with or on behalf of the U.S. government, according to a senior administration official. Last year, amid the evacuation out of Afghanistan, the administration stood up “Operation Allies Welcome,” a whole-of-government effort to resettle Afghans to the U.S. That operation is now being renamed “Enduring Welcome,” with a focus on helping Afghans and their family members who remain abroad. The administration is doubling down on existing immigrant pathways, like special immigrant visas and the refugee admissions program, to help Afghans interested in coming to the US. “This commitment does not have an end date — the commitment to resettle our Afghan allies,” the senior administration official told reporters. Priscilla Alvarez reports for CNN.
Prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal appeared to take a step backwards yesterday as the Biden administration said Tehran’s latest proposals, submitted through the European Union, were “not constructive.” “We can confirm that we have received Iran’s response,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said in a statement. “We are studying it and will respond … but unfortunately it is not constructive.” For weeks, the United States and Iran have gone back and forth with replies and counter-replies to a “final” text offered in July by the European Union. Neither Iran nor the United States has made public its submissions, but the exchanges raised optimism that the negotiations had reached an endgame and there was momentum for a settlement. Earlier this week, Borrell said he hoped a deal could be reached “in the coming days.” Karen DeYoung reports for the Washington Post.
South Korea’s national security adviser has said he and his counterparts from the United States and Japan have agreed there will be no soft response if North Korea conducts a nuclear test. Kim Sung-han made the comment after trilateral talks with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Akiba Takeo of Japan in Hawaii amid signs the North has completed preparations to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017. “If North Korea conducts its seventh nuclear test, our three countries, together with the international community, will maximize cooperation in a way that (North Korea) realizes it was a clearly wrong choice,” Kim told reporters. Soo -Hyang Choi reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – ZAPORIZHZHIA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Two inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) will remain at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant permanently. This is according to Russia’s representative to the International Organizations in Vienna. BBC News reports.
The “physical integrity” of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been “violated several times”, the head of the I.A.E.A. has said. Speaking to reporters after he returned to Ukrainian-controlled territory yesterday, Rafael Grossi said he continued to be worried “until we have a more stable situation” at the plant, and explained inspectors were not there to assess whether the damage was deliberate or accidental. BBC News reports.
Live updates of the I.A.E.A.’s visit to the plant are provided by BBC News.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was the victim of a failed assassination attempt yesterday. A man pointed a pistol at her head and tried to pull the trigger, but the gun did not go off, according to video footage and a statement from Argentina’s president. “Cristina is still alive because, for reasons that have not been confirmed technically, the weapon, which was loaded with five bullets, did not fire,” President Alberto Fernández said late Thursday in an address to the nation. “This is the most serious event since we recovered our democracy.” Kirchner, a leftist former president who is the most prominent leader in Argentina, with three decades in the public eye, is a deeply polarizing figure and is on trial on corruption charges. She was unharmed by the incident. Jack Nicas and Natalie Alcoba report for the New York Times.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced by a military-run court in Myanmar to a further three years in prison on election fraud charges. Suu Kyi – the country’s former leader – has now been sentenced to 20 years in prison on 11 counts, with several charges remaining. She denies all of the accusations, and the trials have been condemned by rights groups as politically-motivated. Suu Kyi – and many members of her party – are among more than 15,000 people who have been arrested by the country’s military junta since they seized power last February – 12,000 remain in prison, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma). Oliver Slow reports for BBC News.
Taiwan’s military for the first time shot down an unidentified civilian drone that entered its airspace near an islet off the Chinese coast on Thursday. Taiwan’s government has said it will not provoke or escalate tensions but has been particularly angered recently by repeated cases of Chinese drones buzzing islands controlled by Taiwan close to China’s coast. The defense command for Kinmen, a group of Taiwan-controlled islands opposite China’s Xiamen and Quanzhou cities, said in a statement released by Taiwan’s defense ministry that the drone entered restricted air space just after midday local time. Troops on the islet tried warning it away but to no effect, so shot it down, with the remains landing in the sea, it added. Reuters reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 94.532 million people and has now killed over 1.05 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 603.153million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.50 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.