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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.
U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The U.N. General Assembly began yesterday with both Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanual Macron using their platform to cast themselves as peacemakers in the war in Ukraine. President Biden, whose speech was delayed by a trip to Britain, will address the assembly today when he is expected to speak on themes of international cooperation and human rights, and to warn that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violates international law and threatens order. Farnaz Fassihi and Alan Yuhas report for the New York Times.
As well as Biden, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will also address the U.N. General Assembly today. Iran’s president has said he has no plans to meet with Biden on the sidelines of the event and has called his first appearance at the U.N. as Iran’s leader an opportunity to explain to the world about alleged “malice” that unspecified nations and world powers have toward Iran. Zelenskyy will deliver a pre-recorded address because of his continuing need to deal with Russia’s invasion. Pia Sarkar reports for AP.
Just Security has published a piece titled ‘Richard Gowan on Ukraine and How Russia’s War Reverberates at the United Nations.’
In a major escalation of the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the threat of a nuclear response and ordered reservists to mobilize. “Russia will use all the instruments at its disposal to counter a threat against its territorial integrity—this is not a bluff,” Putin said in a national address that blamed the West for the conflict in Ukraine. Without providing evidence, Putin said top NATO officials had said that it would be acceptable to carry out nuclear strikes on Russia. “To those who allow themselves such statements, I would like to remind them, Russia also has many types of weapons of destruction, the components of which in some cases are more modern than those of the countries of NATO,” Putin said. In his speech, Putin also cast the partial mobilization as a response to what he called a decadeslong Western plot to break up Russia. Evan Gershkovich, Thomas Grove and Alan Cullison report for the Wall Street Journal.
Occupied regions of Ukraine have announced that they will hold referendums on formally joining Russia this week. In what appeared to be a coordinated announcement, Russian-appointed leaders in the occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic all said they planned to hold “votes” beginning on Sept. 23. The referendums, which Putin backed during his national address, could pave the way for Russian annexation of the areas, allowing Moscow to frame the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive there as an attack on Russia itself, thereby providing Moscow with a pretext to escalate its military response. The referendums – illegal under international law – have been widely denounced by Western officials. Simone McCarthy and Rob Picheta report for CNN.
The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine has called Putin’s move to partially mobilize his country’s reservist force and to back staged referendums a “sign of weakness.” In a post on Twitter, Bridget Brink, who has been in her post for roughly four months, also said: “The United States will never recognize Russia’s claim to purportedly annexed Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.” Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
Putin’s remarks are an obvious threat and should be taken “very seriously,” British deputy foreign minister, Gillian Keegan, has said. “Clearly it’s something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control. I’m not sure he’s in control either, really,” Keegan told Sky News. “Of course, we will still stand by Ukraine, as will all of our NATO allies,” she added. Jennifer Hassan reports for the Washington Post.
Ukraine’s national nuclear operator has accused Russian forces of shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Energoatom said in a Telegram post that emergency diesel generators had to be briefly activated after a power unit was damaged by the strikes, which took place at around 1:13am local time. Workers at the plant were eventually able to secure an alternate source of energy for the damaged power unit and put the emergency diesel generators on standby mode, the state operator said. Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
The United States is in “deep” talks with India over its reliance on Russian arms and energy, a U.S. State Department official said yesterday. Russia “is no longer a reliable weapons supplier” and Indian representatives are “coming to understand that there could be real benefits for them (in finding other markets),” the official told reporters. Whilst India has so far largely resisted Western pressure to cut ties with the Kremlin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to indicate a potential change in tone last week when he told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a face-to-face meeting in Uzbekistan that now is not the time for war. Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood and Rhea Mogul report for CNN.
U.S. and Canadian warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait yesterday. The transit marked the second time in just over three weeks that a U.S. Navy warship had made the voyage. Though the U.S. called the transit “routine,” it comes after Biden added fuel to tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, telling CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he would use U.S. troops to defend the island if China tried to invade. Brad Lendon, Ellie Kaufmann and Barbara Starr report for CNN.
The Haitian government’s plan to raise fuel prices has sparked chaos in the Caribbean country, with thousands of protestors taking to the streets to call for the prime minister’s overthrow. Powerful gang leader, Jimmy Cherizier, who has ties to successive Haitian governments, also joined the calls last week, saying in a video speech that he would lead the poor in a war against the government. “We have to mobilize and chase out all the politicians, the corrupt bourgeoisie that hold this country hostage,” he said, dressed in his trademark black beret and military fatigues “If the people want to block, we will block. If they want to destroy, we’ll destroy.” José de Córdoba and Ingrid Arnesen report for the Wall Street Journal.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – MAR-A-LAGO SEARCH
The special master appointed to review documents seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence expressed skepticism yesterday about Trump’s contention that he had declassified the various top secret documents found there. Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie of New York, had asked Trump’s attorneys for more information about which of the over 100 sensitive documents federal agents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach might have been declassified. In yesterday’s hearing, Trump attorney James Trusty maintained that “we should not be in a position to have to disclose declarations” and witness statements about the classification issue. Dearie suggested their not doing so could be problematic for their case. “My view is you can’t have your cake and eat it,” Dearie said. Dearie also said that the government had presented “prima facie” evidence that the documents are classified, as they bear classification marks. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it,” Dearie said unless Trump’s team has some evidence to the contrary. Dareh Gregorian and Adam Reiss report for NBC News.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – JAN 6. ATTACK
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack will hold a hearing next week, committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has said. The hearing will take place on Sept. 28 at 1 pm EST. As of now, the hearing, which has not been formally announced by the committee, will mark the panel’s last until it releases its final report, which is expected by the end of the year. “I can say that unless something else develops, this hearing at this point is the final hearing. But it’s not in stone because things happen,” Thompson said. The theme of the hearing will be one the panel has not previously explored, he added. Annie Grayer reports for CNN.
The trial of the QAnon follower who allegedly chased Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman during the Jan. 6 attack began yesterday. The defendant, Douglas Jensen, faces seven charges for his alleged actions that day, including obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct, and assaulting, impeding or resisting an officer. In mounting his defense, Jensen’s attorney, Christopher David, argued that Jensen was a believer in QAnon and thought lawmakers, including then Vice President Mike Pence, would be arrested that day. Holmes Lybrand reports for CNN.
Liz Cheney has introduced a bill that would change how Congress counts presidential electors. The bill aims to reduce the chances of another bid to overturn election results, like that mounted by former President Trump following his 2020 election defeat. Co-sponsored with Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, the legislation would direct challenges to state elections to the courts and limit the vice president’s role in electoral vote-counting as “ministerial.” It would also raise the bar to challenge a state’s electors to one-third of both the House and Senate. The House will consider the legislation today. Ryan Teague Beckwith reports for Bloomberg.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Justice Department has begun investigating possible patterns of racial discrimination in the hiring and promotion of Black police officers in Kansas City, Missouri. The inquiry will focus on allegations that the Kansas City Police Department’s leaders created “a hostile work environment” that contributed to race-based disparities in the 1,100-member force, including assignments and disciplinary actions, according to a letter sent to the department’s governing board. The inquiry was welcomed by the city’s mayor Quiton Lucas (D), who has long been critical of the Police Department’s practices. Glenn Thrush reports for the New York Times.
U.S. counterintelligence efforts are failing to keep pace with espionage, hacking and disinformation threats, according to a Senate report released yesterday. The bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee says that U.S. spy agencies are poorly equipped to combat threats from major powers such as China, transnational criminal organizations and ideologically motivated groups. These varied groups target not just U.S. national security agencies, but also other government departments, the private sector and academia in search of secret or sensitive data. The report, which is partially redacted, focuses on the little-known National Counterintelligence and Security Center, whose mission is to lead counterintelligence across the U.S. government. The center doesn’t have sufficient funding or authority, nor a clear mission, the Senate report says. Warren P. Strobel reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The federal court system’s policy-making body yesterday called on Congress to pass legislation that would ramp up safety measures for judges. “The safety of judges and their families is essential — not just to the individuals involved, but to our democracy,” U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan, chair of the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Committee on Judicial Security, said in a news release. The release urged Congress to pass the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, which would give judges the power to force public websites to remove personal information about them and their family members, such as home addresses and license plate identifiers. The legislation is named after the son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, who was murdered in July 2020 by a disgruntled attorney in an attack at the judge’s home. Kelly Hooper reports for POLITICO.
A civil rights law firm filed a federal class action lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) yesterday, accusing him of orchestrating a “premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme” to fly dozens of migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard. The lawsuit alleges that DeSantis and state transportation officials violated the migrants’ constitutional rights by coercing mostly Venezuelan asylum-seekers onto planes through “false promises and misrepresentations.” It also accuses DeSantis of inappropriately using federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for the flights. The lawsuit also asks a judge to order DeSantis to stop transporting migrants in the future – something the Florida governor has promised to continue to do. Lisa Kashinsky reports for POLITICO.
COVID-19 has infected over 95.77 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 613.086 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.53 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.