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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
Federal prosecutors have issued a subpoena to William Russell, a personal aide to former President Trump, as part of their investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. This week, F.B.I. agents approached Russell at his Florida home. Whilst it was not immediately clear what the agents wanted, a person with knowledge of the F.B.I.’s interest said that it related to the grand jury investigation ino the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. The move suggests that investigators have further expanded the pool of people from whom they are seeking information. Adam Goldman and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ conversations Trump during the Jan. 6 attack should not be shielded from lawmakers, a lawyer for the congressional committee probing the attack told a judge in Washington yesterday. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols did not immediately rule on whether the subpoenaed communications must be provided to the Jan. 6 committee. Meadows’ attorneys say the messages are protected by executive privilege, which allows presidential communications with top aides to remain private, and that Meadows has “absolute immunity” from being called to testify. In yesterday’s hearing, the select committee told the court it has narrowed down the information it wants from Meadows, including what he witnessed at the White House during the attack. U.S. House lawyer Douglas Letter argued that those talks are not protected because they did not concern official White House business. Jacqueline Thomsen reports for Reuters.
A federal judge has refused to delay the jury trial of Stewart Rhodes and four other members of the Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes, the founder of the right-wing Oath Keepers group, had filed a motion to replace his lawyer and delay his Sept. 27 trial with co-defendants Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who will oversee the trial, said that granting Rhodes’ request would create “havoc” and that a delay would push the trial back to at least next summer given how many Jan. 6 cases are on the docket. Ryan J. Reilly reports for NBC News.
Democrats and liberal groups, determined to find a way to bar former President Trump from returning to office, are preparing a variety of ways to disqualify him. These include drafting new legislation and readying a flurry of lawsuits seeking to use an obscure clause in the Constitution to brand him an insurrectionist. The plans amount to an extraordinarily long-shot effort to accomplish what multiple investigations of Mr. Trump have failed to do: foreclose any chance that the former president could regain power, whether voters want him to or not. They reflect a growing concern that Merrick B. Garland, the attorney general, will not pursue criminal action against Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack. Moreover, even if Trump were convicted of a crime, there is no law barring him from becoming president. Luke Broadwater and Michael S. Schmidt report for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Steve Bannon is expected to plead not guilty when arraigned on New York state charges related to an effort to raise money to fund the construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border. The former Trump aide will surrender to face the charges this morning, people familiar with the matter have said. Bannon issued a statement late Tuesday calling the indictment “phoney charges” and “nothing more than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system.” “I am proud to be a leading voice on protecting our borders and building a wall to keep our country safe from drugs and violent criminals,” he said in the statement, adding: “They are coming after all of us, not only President Trump and myself. I am never going to stop fighting. In fact, I have not yet begun to fight. They will have to kill me first.” Kara Scannell and Shawna Mizelle report for CNN.
A group representing the top judges in all 50 states is urging the U.S. Supreme Court not to remove their oversight of actions taken by state legislature affecting federal elections – such as reconfiguring electoral districts and imposing voting restrictions. The bipartisan Conference of Chief Justices filed the brief on Tuesday in a closely watched case involving a map drawn by the Republican-led North Carolina legislature of the state’s 14 U.S. House of Representatives districts. The Republican defense of the North Carolina legislature’s map relies on a legal theory called the “independent state legislature doctrine” that is gaining traction in conservative legal circles and, if endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court, would vastly increase politicians’ control over how elections are conducted. The Conference of Chief Justices in its brief said that the argument flew in the face of history and that the Constitution does not bar states from allowing their courts to review state elections under their state constitutions. Nate Raymond reports for Reuters.
Syrian forces allied with the U.S. have rounded up hundreds of suspected Islamic State operatives this year in raids on a refugee camp. U.S. Central Command announced yesterday that, over the last two weeks alone, Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) had apprehended “dozens” of suspects at the al-Hol camp in northeast Syria and dissolved a “major ISIS facilitation network.” The operation is ongoing, according to a U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail an unfolding situation. Karoun Demirjian reports for the Washington Post.
Ukraine is considering shutting down the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant due to the deteriorating security situation, according to Oleh Korikov, the chief state inspector for nuclear and radiation safety of Ukraine. “The continued deterioration of the situation, the prolonged lack of power supply from an external source of electricity will force us to deploy standby diesel generators, and it is extremely difficult to top up the diesel fuel supply during the war,” Korikov added, warning that maintaining the diesel generators running would not be sustainable. Yulia Kesaieva and Vasco Cotovio report for CNN.
The commander of Ukraine’s armed forces has acknowledged publicly for the first time that Ukrainian forces were behind last month’s missile strikes on a Russian air base in Crimea. The commander, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, and a colleague wrote in an article published on Wednesday by Ukrinform, a Ukrainian news agency, that as many as 10 Russian warplanes were destroyed in the attack on the Saki Air Base, on Crimea’s western Black Sea coast. The attack was crucial, he added, to shifting the war’s center of gravity and bringing home the costs of the conflict to Russian citizens. Victoria Kim reports for the New York Times.
In the same article, Zaluzhnyi warned that a “limited” nuclear war between Russia and the West could not be discounted. “There is a direct threat of the use, under certain circumstances, of tactical nuclear weapons by the Russian Armed forces,” he wrote. “It is also impossible to completely rule out the possibility of the direct involvement of the world’s leading countries in a ‘limited’ nuclear conflict, in which the prospect of World War III is already directly visible.” Miriam Berger report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. yesterday accused Moscow of forcibly deporting up to 1.6 million Ukrainians to Russia or Russian-controlled territory and subjecting them to a “filtration” process involving invasive security screening, interrogation, family separation and detention. The accusation was made during a U.N. Security Council meeting that was requested by the U.S. and Albania to discuss the forced displacement of Ukrainians. During the meeting, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said that Moscow’s reason for deporting Ukrainians was “to prepare for an attempted annexation” and “to provide a fraudulent veneer of legitimacy for the Russian occupation and eventual, purported annexation of even more Ukrainian territory.” Thomas-Greenfield said Russia’s actions amounted to a war crime and a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which mandates the protection of civilians in conflict zones. She called on Russia to grant access to international observers to investigate the camps and detention facilities where Ukrainian civilians are held. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. intends to send another $2 billion in long-term military support to Ukraine and 18 other countries that are at risk of Russian invasion, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Kyiv. Separately, President Biden has approved a further $675 million in military support for Ukraine, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said, as the U.S. seeks to bolster Ukraine’s defenses and its efforts to reclaim territory lost to Russia. Michael Crowley and Matthew Mpoke Bigg report for the New York Times.
Three Baltic countries agreed yesterday to ban Russians from crossing into their countries by land, sealing off the last relatively easy routes out of Russia. The European Union banned flights to and from Russia soon after Moscow invaded Ukraine. The suspension of air traffic meant that the easiest and cheapest option for many Russian tourists was to travel by land to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland to catch flights to holiday destinations. In a statement to The New York Times, Ingrida Simonyte, the prime minister of Lithuania, said that Russians, including those with valid visas, had “no reason to go to beaches and shopping here when Putin is killing the people of Ukraine.” She added: “We have been, are and will be attentive to people who are threatened for their activities or political position in Russia. But I want to stress that an E.U. visa is not an automatic right to cross the E.U. border.” Andrew Higgins reports for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The second of two men accused of fatally stabbing 10 people in and around an Indigenous community of Saskatchewan died yesterday after being taken into custody. Myles Sanderson, 32, “went into medical distress” and was pronounced dead at a hospital in Saskatoon after authorities forced a truck that he had apparently stolen off the road, Rhonda Blackmore, a commanding officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, told reporters. It still isn’t clear what might have led brothers Myles and Damien Sanderson, 31, to go on the violent spree that unfolded Sunday morning on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the town of Weldon. David K. Li and Tim Stelloh report for NBC News.
Four journalists from one of Egypt’s last independent news outlets were charged with criminal offenses yesterday, in the government’s latest attempt to intimidate and punish the publication for its reporting. The charges — publishing fake news, misusing social media and insulting members of Parliament — stemmed from an article that the outlet, Mada Masr, published last week on a corruption inquiry and impending leadership shake-up in the political party that dominates Parliament, the Nation’s Future Party. After the article was published last week, the Nation’s Future Party filed a series of legal complaints against several Mada Masr journalists, including the four charged on Wednesday: Rana Mamdouh, Beesan Kassab, Sara Seif Eddin and Lina Attalah. They were summoned to the public prosecutor’s office on Wednesday, where each faced four prosecutors and underwent hours of questioning about the article before being released on bail, one of their lawyers, Ragia Omran, said. It is not clear whether prosecutors will pursue the case and bring it to trial. Vivian Yee reports for the New York Times.
Solomon Islands lawmakers have voted to delay national elections, in a controversial move opposition leaders have called a “power grab” that could rekindle violence in a country whose growing ties to China have drawn international concern. The outcome was a victory for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who argued that the poor Pacific island nation could not afford to hold elections and host the Pacific Games next year. The constitutional amendment delayed the dissolution of the current Parliament from May 2023 until the end of next year, shortly after the conclusion of the games, and pushed the election until early 2024. Opposition lawmaker Peter Kenilorea Jr. said he feared that postponing the elections would allow Sogavare to consolidate his control over the country or, worse, suspend elections altogether. “It’s an authoritarian move,” Kenilorea said in an interview before the vote. “This is all about him staying in power for as long as he can.” Michael E. Miller reports for the Washington Post.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will propose Austria’s Volker Turk to be the next High Commissioner for Human Rights. Turk, who now works in Guterres’ office as Under Secretary-General for Policy, will succeed Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, whose term ended on Aug. 31. The appointment still needs to be approved by the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Emma Farge reports for Reuters.
COVID-19 has infected over 95.02 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 606.953million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.51 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.