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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
In a speech in front of the U.N. General Assembly, President Biden said that Russia has “shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations charter.” He went on to call Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons a “reckless disregard for the responsibilities of a nonproliferation regime.” Biden called for the world community to stand against Russia and voiced support to increase the number of permanent and nonpermanent representatives on the U.N. Security Council. Catherine Lucey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a recorded address to the U.N. General Assembly, called for a special tribunal to punish Russia. Zelenskyy said that “Russia should pay for this war with its assets” and urged the United Nations to “remove the right of veto” from Russia as a Security Council member. Michelle Nichols and Max Hunder report for Reuters.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi criticized western nations’ “double standard” in an address to the U.N. General Assembly. Raisi also blamed the United States for the stalled negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Biden said in his remarks before the General Assembly that the United States stood with “the brave citizens and women in Iran who are right now demonstrating to secure their basic rights.” Benoit Faucon, Aresu Eqbali, and Laurence Norman report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilization that will call up as many as 300,000 reservists for Russia’s war against Ukraine. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reinforced the comments in a separate address. Shoigu also announced the Russian death toll as 5,937, but Western estimates have been much higher. Robyn Dixon, Catherine Belton, and Mary Ilyushina report for the Washington Post.
In 38 cities across Russia, protestors gathered to voice their disapproval of the partial mobilization. At least 1,252 people were detained. Valarie Hopkins reports for the New York Times.
In a veiled threat to use nuclear weapons, Putin said that “to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal…It’s not a bluff.” A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on world leaders to tell Putin that any use of nuclear weapons would result in “swift retaliatory nuclear strikes to destroy the nuclear launch sites in Russia.” Shuan Walker and Luke Harding report for the Guardian.
European Commission officials have called for new sanctions against Russia. “Well, Putin is showing his weakness now, because what you see is that he plans to mobilize personnel that are less trained, less experienced, less motivated. And he wants to start a referendum on Ukrainian sovereign soil,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNN in an interview Wednesday. “I think this calls for sanctions from our side again.” Barbara Moens, Lili Bayer, and Jacopo Barigazzi report for POLITICO.
U.S. veterans Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Huynh, along with eight other foreigners who had been held captive in northeastern Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists, have been released as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, along with the Saudi government, were credited with negotiating their release. Dan Lamothe, Karen DeYoung, and Alex Horton report for the Washington Post.
The German government has announced the nationalization of Uniper, Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas, in a bid to prevent energy shortages due to the war in Ukraine. “The decision was made,” German Economic Affairs and Climate Minister Robert Habeck said at a news conference, “to ensure security of supply for Germany.” Meg Kelly reports for the Washington Post.
North Korea released a statement denying that it sold weapons or ammunition to Russia. U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said earlier this month that Russia was in the process of purchasing rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use in Ukraine. Reuters in Seoul reports.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House passed the Presidential Election Reform Act, which aims “to prevent other future unlawful efforts to overturn Presidential elections and to ensure future peaceful transfers of Presidential power.” The bill was written by Reps. Liz Cheney and Zoe Lofgren, both members of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Amy Wang reports for the Washington Post.
Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has agreed to sit for a voluntary interview with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6th attack. The committee asked for an interview with Thomas in June after CNN reported she exchanged text messages with White House chief of Staff Mark Meadow about overturning the election prior to the attack. Jamie Gangel, Ariane de Vogue, and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called former President Donald Trump “crazy” and vowed to never speak to him again, according to reporting for a new book. Politico reporter Rachael Bade and Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian also report that McConnell was pressured by Senator Rand Paul to vote that Trump’s impeachment was unconstitutional but considered voting to impeach the former President during the Senate’s trial. Martin Pengelly reports for the Guardian.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that the Department of Justice (DOJ) could use materials marked classified in its criminal investigation of government documents held at Mar-a-Lago and does not need to provide those materials to a special master. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon had ruled that a special master must review all 11,000 documents seized during the raid, including those with classified markings, and halted the use of the documents by criminal investigators. The 11th Circuit’s 3-judge panel also criticized Trump’s claim that he had declassified the documents, calling the argument a “red herring.” The judges said “declassification of an official document would not change its content or render it personal.” Charlie Savage, Glenn Thrush, and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
New York Attorney General Letitia James accused former President Donald Trump of fraudulently overvaluing his assets by billions of dollars in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday. James concluded that Trump and his family business violated several state criminal laws and “plausibly” broke federal criminal laws as well. Her office has referred the matter to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum, and Ben Protess report for the New York Times.
Just Security has published an article entitled ‘Has a Trump Tipping Point Been Reached? Analyzing The NY Attorney General’s Case Against Trump.’
Senators from both sides of the aisle criticized the Department of Justice for failing to count the number of inmate deaths in prison in violation of federal law. The Government Accountability Office released a report at the hearing that around 1,000 deaths that were not reported to the DOJ and found that 70% of records submitted by states were missing at least one required element. Joe Davidson reports for the Washington Post.
More than half a million people in Puerto Rico still have no water service in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, and more than 70% of customers remain without power. Biden approved a major disaster declaration Wednesday to increase federal assistance. Dánica Coto reports for AP.
Tik Tok announced new rules that limit politicians’ ability to use the app for anything other than organic activity. Politicians will no longer be able to use the app’s tipping tool, solicit for donations on the app, direct users to a donation page, or access certain advertising features. Alex Hern reports for the Guardian.
Former police officer Thomas Lane was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd. Lane held down Floyd’s legs during the nine and a half minute restraint when former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. Lane is already serving a two and a half year sentence for violating the federal civil rights of Floyd. Al Jazeera reports.
For the first time in 30 years, the Senate approved an international climate treaty. The treaty pledges a reduction in the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas used in refrigerators and air-conditioners that contributes to climate change. Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport report for the New York Times.
The U.S. military announced that it killed 27 people when it carried out an airstrike against al-Shabab fighters attacking Somalia military forces in central Somalia. The strike, conducted on Sunday, was the sixth recorded this year. U.S. Africa Command reported that no civilians were injured. Al Jazeera reports.
Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet Vice Adm. Karl Thomas said China is capable of blockading Taiwan in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Beijing could try to use a blockage to force submission by the Taiwanese government without a kinetic invasion. China has the world’s largest navy. Niharika Mandhana reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who was in police custody, are intensifying. In addition to a massive crackdown from Iranian security forces, Internet and cell service has been disrupted in neighborhoods with protests. Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi, have said they will investigate. Cora Engelbrecht and Farnaz Fassihi report for the New York Times.
Uganda has declared the outbreak of a relatively rare strain of Ebola that is likely to prove resistant against existing vaccines. Called the Sudan Strain, Uganda has not had an outbreak of this kind of Ebola in over a decade. Most known outbreaks of Ebola are caused by the Zaire strain, and the most widely used vaccines to prevent the disease are effective only against the Zaire strain. Nicholas Bariyo reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The family of the late journalist Shireen Abu Akleh formally submitted a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) with evidence that the reporter was deliberately killed by Israeli forces. Abu Akleh was shot in the head while reporting on an Israel Defense Forces raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Israel has admitted that it is possible she was shot by an Israeli soldier, but maintains the shooting was an accident. Bethan McKernan reports for the Guardian.
COVID-19 has infected over 95.88 million people and has now killed over 1.06 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 613.580 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.