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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.
The Biden administration has declared that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince should be granted immunity in a lawsuit over his role in the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In a letter sent yesterday, the State Department asked the Justice Department to formally request that the federal court in Washington, where the case was filed, grant Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman legal immunity, saying that he should be “immune while in office” as the head of the Saudi government. The final decision rests with the presiding judge. Ben Hubbard reports for the New York Times.
North Korea fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday, the South Korean and Japanese governments have said. According to the Japanese defense minister, the missile had the potential to reach the entire continental U.S.. The White House swiftly condemned the launch, saying it would “take all necessary measures” to guarantee the security of the U.S. and its allies South Korea and Japan. Stella Kim, Arata Yamamoto and Jennifer Jett report for NBC News.
The FBI is concerned by reports that secret “police stations” linked to China have been set up across the U.S., FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers yesterday. The stations are thought to be an extension of Beijing’s efforts to pressure some Chinese nationals or their relatives abroad to return to China to face criminal charges. They are also reportedly linked to the activities of China’s United Front Work Department, a body charged with spreading the Communist Party’s influence and propaganda overseas. Michael Martina and Ted Hesson report for Reuters.
American basketball star Brittney Griner was transferred to a penal colony outside Moscow yesterday, according to her lawyers. “Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment,” the lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Aleksandr Boikov, said in a statement, adding that this is “a very challenging period for her.” Ivan Nechepurenko reports for the New York Times.
Russia is hopeful that it can agree a prisoner swap with the U.S. that would include arms trafficker Viktor Bout, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said. This is the first time a U.S. or Russian official has publicly said that Bout, known as the Merchant of Death, could be part of an exchange. The U.S. has previously said it was eager to organize a prisoner swap to release Brittney Griner. BBC News reports.
Russian forces launched another barrage of missiles across Ukraine yesterday targeting the capital Kyiv and other cities and killing at least 15 people. Moscow has escalated air strikes in recent weeks, particularly those targeting energy infrastructure. In comments to the U.N. Security Council yesterday, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called this a “deliberate tactic” by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He seems to have decided that if he can’t seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze the country into submission. It is hard to overstate how horrific these attacks are,” she said. Jared Malsin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Investigators have found traces of explosives at the site of the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines, Swedish authorities have said. The discovery confirms that the blasts were caused by “gross sabotage,” the authorities added. However, the statements by the prosecutor’s office and the Swedish Security Service did not address how the explosives got there or who might be responsible. Emily Rauhala and Ellen Francis report for the Washington Post.
A Dutch court yesterday convicted three men of murder for the downing of passenger jet MH17 above Ukraine in 2014. The three men, all of whom had ties to the Russian security services, were sentenced to life in prison. However, as they are believed to be living in Russia or Russian-controlled territory they are unlikely ever to serve their sentences. Constant Méheut reports for the New York Times.
Russian opposition leader, Aleksei Navalny, said yesterday that he has been transferred permanently to solitary confinement. “They’re doing it to keep me quiet,” Navalny said in posts on his verified Twitter account, adding that staying in the small, cramped cell was typically limited to 15 days as a punishment. The rules also bar “long visits” from relatives, he said. Neil MacFarquhar, Alina Lobzina and Valeriya Safronova report for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least 21 people – including 10 children – have been killed by a fire in a building in a densely populated refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Based on preliminary investigations the fire appeared to be an accident, but “police forces, civil defense and forensic teams are still continuing their follow-up and investigations into this painful incident,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Hazem Balousha and Miriam Berger report for the Washington Post.
Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House, said yesterday that she would leave leadership ranks in January. Pelosi, who has spent two decades as the Democratic Party’s leader in the House, made her announcement following narrow election losses that cost the Democrats their majority in the chamber. She will however remain in Congress, after winning her 19th term last week. Jonathan Allen and Scott Wong report for NBC News.
House Democrats appear likely to choose Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY) to succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Whilst Pelosi wouldn’t say who she’d support to replace her, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn both endorsed Jeffries after announcing they would also step down from their leadership posts. The vote will take place on November 30, and if elected Jeffries would be the first Black person to lead a party in Congress. Alex Rogers, Daniella Diaz and Manu Raju report for CNN.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack interviewed Secret Service agent, Bobby Engel, yesterday, according to sources familiar with the matter. Engel, who was the lead agent for then-President Trump during the Jan. 6 attack, could provide key testimony relating to the information shared by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Hutchinson testified that she was told Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of his armored SUV and lunged towards his security detail when he learned he would not be taken to the Capitol during the attack. Rebecca Shabad, Ali Vitali and Ryan Nobles report for NBC News.
Hundreds of Twitter employees have reportedly chosen to leave the company following an ultimatum issued by Elon Musk demanding they sign a pledge to work harder or accept three months’ severance pay. According to current and former employees, the exodus threatens the site’s ability to keep operating with some critical systems no longer having any engineers to tend to them. Half the trust and safety police team, including a majority of those who work on spotting misinformation, have also declined to sign the pledge, according to one employee familiar with the situation. Joseph Menn, Nitasha Tiku and Faiz Siddiqui report for the Washington Post.
The officer in charge of police in Uvalde, Texas, during the shooting at Robb Elementary School stepped down yesterday. Mariano Pargas Jr, who was acting chief of the Uvalde Police Department at the time of the massacre, left the department after an investigation found errors in his decision-making on that day. J. David Goodman reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 98.261 million people and has now killed over 1.08 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 637.127 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.62 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.