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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
Jeremy Bertino, a top lieutenant to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in federal court yesterday and is cooperating with the Justice Department. Bertino also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. He is the first member of the Proud Boys to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy – a major boost to the historic prosecution of the organization. According to his plea agreement, which was read out in court, he could spend more than five years in prison. However, prosecutors could ask a judge for a lesser sentence depending on his level of cooperation. Even though Bertino was not present at the attack, it is hoped that he may provide crucial testimony for prosecutors in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial, which is set to begin in December of this year. Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand report for CNN.
The founder of the Oath Keepers indicated in the months before the Jan. 6 attack that he was in contact with a member of the Secret Service, a former member of the organization testified yesterday. During the trial of Stewart Rhodes, and four other Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy, John Zimmerman testified that Rhodes told him he had a contact in the Secret Service and that he heard Rhodes talking with someone he believed to be a member of the Secret Service in Sept. 2020. The reported call came ahead of a Trump rally in North Carolina, where Zimmerman was an Oath Keepers county leader before he left the organization. In response to a request for comment, a Secret Service spokesperson said: “it is not uncommon for various organizations to contact us concerning security restrictions and activities that are permissible in proximity to our protected sites.” Ryan J. Reilly and Daniel Barnes report for NBC News.
The Jan. 6 select committee has scheduled what is expected to be its final hearing for Thursday, Oct. 13 at 1:00 p.m. (EST). Yesterday’s announcement included no details about witnesses or topics for the hearing. However, committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told reporters last week that they were unlikely to bring live witnesses. Instead, the final hearing would be a “compilation of information we have assembled that we have not shared with the public,” Thompson said. Nicholas Wu reports for POLITICO.
A top Justice Department official has told former President Trump’s lawyers in recent weeks that Trump must return any outstanding documents marked as classified. The outreach from the official, Jay I. Bratt, who leads the department’s counterintelligence operations, makes clear that investigators do not believe that Trump has been fully cooperative in their efforts to recover documents taken from the White House at the end of the former president’s term. It is not clear whether the Justice Department has gathered new evidence that Trump has held onto government material even after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago residence in August. Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Federal agents investigating President Biden’s son Hunter have gathered what they believe is sufficient evidence to charge him with tax crimes and a false statement related to a gun purchase. This is according to several sources familiar with the matter. The next step is for the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, a Trump administration holdover, to decide on whether to file such charges, these sources said. Attorney General Merrick Garland, has vowed there will be no political or otherwise improper interference in the Hunter Biden case and has not pushed U.S. Attorney in Delaware David Weiss to make a decision. Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein report for the Washington Post.
A federal judge has temporarily blocked the enforcement of parts of a New York gun law that was enacted in the wake of a Supreme Court decision earlier this summer which protected the right to carry a gun outside the home. Among the provisions of the New York law that the state cannot enforce is one that defines Times Square as a “gun-free zone.” The law is aimed at placing restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home. Judge Glenn T. Suddaby of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York said the state has “further reduced a first-class constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense” into a mere “request.” He said that several provisions of the law had no historical justification, a controversial requirement put forward by the supreme court last spring. Melanie Schuman, Ariane de Vogue and Shawna Mizelle report for CNN.
Biden announced yesterday that he will take executive action to pardon thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession under federal law. Biden also said he would encourage governors to take similar action with state offenses and ask the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department to review how marijuana is scheduled, or classified, under federal law. The president’s action, a significant shift in the federal government’s approach to marijuana policy, is a step toward making good on his campaign commitment to decriminalize marijuana. Lauren Egan reports for NBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – ZAPORIZHZHIA
The director of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog said yesterday that he did not recognize Russia’s claims to control the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Speaking during a visit to Kyiv, Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A), said that the agency still viewed the plant as a Ukrainian facility, since the U.N. charter does not recognize illegal annexations. “This is a matter that has to do with international law,” he said at a news conference. Grossi said that I.A.E.A.’s primary goal is to prevent a nuclear accident, which he warned was still a “clear possibility,” rather than punish Russia for its attempted takeover of the plant. He also reiterated his goal of establishing a nuclear safety zone at the plant. Carly Olson reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – UKRAINIAN COUNTER-OFFENSIVES
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said yesterday that his country’s military has retaken hundreds of square kilometers of territory in the Kherson region following Russia’s illegal annexation of the area. “Since October 1, and only in the Kherson region, more than half a thousand square kilometers of territory and dozens of settlements were liberated and stabilized from the Russian pseudo-referendum,” Zelenskyy said in a public address. Zelenskyy additionally touted “successes” in eastern Ukraine in the address. “The day will surely come when we will report on successes in the Zaporizhzhia region as well — in those areas that are still under the control of the occupiers,” he added. Chloe Folmar reports for The Hill.
Ukrainian police have recovered 534 bodies of civilians in territory recaptured by the Ukrainian Army since early September. The bodies included 226 women and 19 children, Serhii Bolvinov, head of the investigative department of the regional police force in Kharkiv, said at a news briefing yesterday. Most of the civilian bodies recovered — 447 — were found in a mass burial site in Izium. The police have also discovered 22 locations that they suspect were used as torture chambers in areas of the Kharkiv region that were recently freed from Russian control, he said. Oleksandr Chubko and Carlotta Gall report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden yesterday delivered another stark warning about the dangers behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats. Speaking at a fundraiser in New York Biden said that this was the first time since the Cuban missile crisis that there has been a direct threat of the use of a nuclear weapon. “I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily [use] a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon,” he added. “I’m trying to figure out what is Putin’s off ramp?” Biden said during the event, “Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?” Sam Fossum, Kaitlin Collins and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.
A pair of Russian nationals apparently fleeing the country’s recent military call-up landed on a remote Alaskan island this week to seek asylum in the U.S.. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the men arrived on a small boat Tuesday on the 90-mile-long St. Lawrence Island, located in the Bering Sea about 50 miles east of Russia. In a statement, Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said: “This incident makes two things clear: First, the Russian people don’t want to fight Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Second, given Alaska’s proximity to Russia, our state has a vital role to play in securing America’s national security.” Alicia A. Caldwell reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Swedish investigators have said that the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines were caused by detonations and that they strongly suspected sabotage. “Our suspicion of gross sabotage is stronger than before,” Nina Odermalm-Schei, a spokesperson for the Swedish Security Agency, said by phone. “We have been able to establish that there have been detonations near Nord Stream 1 and 2 in the Swedish economic zone and the result is extensive damage to the pipelines,” she said. Swedish investigators have inspected the pipelines, and the evidence gathered from the site will now be analyzed by experts with the intention of establishing whether anyone can be prosecuted, she added. Christina Anderson reports for the New York Times.
U.S. forces killed two top Islamic State (ISIS) leaders in an airstrike in northern Syria yesterday, according to two defense officials. The strike killed Abu ‘Ala, one of the top five ISIS leaders and the deputy leader of ISIS in Syria, as well as Abu Mu’Ad al-Qahtani, an ISIS official responsible for prisoner affairs, the officials said. The airstrike comes after the U.S. military conducted a separate raid in northeast Syria that killed an ISIS weapons smuggler on Wednesday night local time. No U.S. forces were killed or injured in either operation. Oren Liebermann and Ellie Kaufman report for CNN.
The Treasury Department yesterday announced new sanctions against seven senior leaders in Iran in response to the government’s violent crackdown on large-scale protests in the country. The sanctions, which come hours after Amnesty International reported that at least 82 people had been killed in the protests, target security leaders as well as government ministers, including Iran’s interior minister, Ahmad Vahidi, and its minister of communications, Eisa Zarepour. “The rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly are vital to guaranteeing individual liberty and dignity,” Treasury Undersecretary Brian Nelson said in a statement. “The United States condemns the Iranian government’s Internet shutdown and continued violent suppression of peaceful protest and will not hesitate to target those who direct and support such actions.” Kelly Garrity reports for POLITICO.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has narrowly voted against holding a debate on China’s conduct in the north-western Xinjiang region. The U.S., U.K., Germany, and other allies had proposed holding the debate, but 19 members of the council voted against the motion, with 17 countries in support and 11 abstentions. The vote, which was a diplomatic victory for China, followed a U.N. report that found Beijing’s abuses against the Muslim Uyghur minority could constitute “crimes against humanity.” China has rejected these allegations as unfounded. Yuan Yang reports for the Financial Times.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry appealed last night for international assistance after weeks of continuous unrest in the country. The demonstrations have been exacerbated by a blockade of Haiti’s main fuel terminal by a federation of gangs, which has made it nearly impossible for millions of Haitians to obtain fuel and increasingly difficult to find drinking water or food. The U.N. is calling for a “humanitarian corridor” to allow for fuel distribution, though it’s unclear how that would work in practice. Schools are closed, and UNICEF has warned that 50,000 children and newborns will go without medical care in the coming weeks. Yesterday, a UNICEF warehouse was looted for supplies. Dave Lawler reports for Axios.
Just Security has published a piece by Rosy Auguste Ducéna titled “People in Haiti Are Dying Because They Lack Water, Food, and Medical Treatment.”
COVID-19 has infected over 96.612 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 620.617 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.56 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.